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A CurtainUp London Review
Playing the Victim
by Ben Clover
The second play at the Royal Court this year by fashionable Russians, the Presnyakov Brothers, Playing The Victim is about death on the set of a crime reconstruction unit. With such a fabulous inside out and lost-in-the-Postmodern idea, it seems perverse that they chose not to run with it. The play meanders likeably enough but doesn't go anywhere. A student gets a job playing the victim in police reconstructions, to "inoculate himself against death" and well, that's it for plot. At the end a writer meets an obnoxious director and pitches the idea for Playing The Victim which is distorted horribly by the director. Perhaps the play, as we have seen it, is the purer version the writer outlines in the final scene? Is this a comment on the tensions between writer and director? Creator and interpreter? Or is it just a postmodern fig leaf for the aimlessness of the play?
The Presnyakovs specialise in non, semi and sort-of sequiturs and the cast make a virtue of their strange humour. Told By An Idiot and Richard Wilson perform and stage the piece with great aplomb and ingenuity. Every actor is excellent and the Japanese "Lady With Mysterious Past" (Amanda Lawrence) deserves her own show.
The set ingeniously becomes a swimming pool, restaurant and dingy flat often and the witty scene changes often win applause But whatever the slickness of the production, there is a certain awkwardness to the writing that hobbles things somewhat. Like their previous play, Terrorism, this has much in common with Ionesco. It shares his big ideas and wordy set pieces, the kind of thing you don't often see on the British stage and a style we are perhaps unused to. Although wry and thoughtful it remained unsatisfying.
Mendes at the Donmar
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
At This Theater
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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