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Posts Tagged ‘Ariel Dorfman’

I vividly remember the tension in the theatre and the gasps from the audience when this was first produced at the Royal Court Theatre 20 years ago. I’m not entirely sure why this is so different, but there was about as much tension last night as an average episode of Heartbeat.

It’s not as if the play has become any less relevant. If anything, Ariel Dorfman’s study of torture and the tortured is even more relevant given formerly civilised countries seem to have adopted it post 9/11. Paulina is a victim finding it difficult to return to normality. Her husband has just been appointed to a tribunal set up to hear cases of death and torture (but not torture without death). She becomes convinced her husband’s good samaritan (he brought him home after his car broke down and pays an unexpected visit later that night) was her torturer and seeks revenge. The late night visit now seems completely implausible, but the rest of the story is believable.

Thandie Newton is one reason for the lack of tension. I never really believed in her as a victim. She didn’t convey the emotional complexity Juliet Stevenson did 20 years ago (I understand the commercial imperative of star casting, but giving such a complex role to someone with no stage experience?). She wasn’t angry enough and her determination for revenge just didn’t seem real. Tom Goodman-Hill and Anthony Calf fare better, but the play revolves around Paulina, so if you can’t believe in her plight, you can’t believe in the story. Then again, maybe Jeremy Herrin’s somewhat clinical production is partly to blame? Or maybe we’re all blase about such issues after 10 years of real war, real torture and real tension?

Given the poor Friday evening house, I don’t think you’ve got long to find out for yourself.

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