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Posts Tagged ‘Oleanna’

My response to this new David Mamet piece is probably affected by having seen Chimerica, a stunning new play, the night before. It’s also the second American play in six days (Disgraced at the Bush is the other) which felt cold & cynical and made me feel more than a bit manipulated.

If you like lawyers before you see this, you probably won’t after. I didn’t, so it confirmed all my prejudices. Money grabbing bastards with few principles for whom truth and justice are barely relevant.

White billionaire Charles Strickland may or may not have raped a black girl in a hotel room. He leaves one lawyer and asks another to take on his case. The two partners – one white, one black – and their young black trainee Susan debate the case, its merits, possible outcomes and whether they should take it on. It’s an interesting debate but to me it seems more about the flaws of the legal system than racism. Right and wrong don’t figure as much as what will and won’t work and truth seems irrelevant.

Tim Shorthall’s giant wood-panelled book-lined office is superb and the performances are all excellent (particularly Jasper Britton, for whom this is a career high in my view). I engaged with the debate at an intellectual level but unlike Oleanna, the Mamet play I feel its closest to, I didn’t really care about anyone and it didn’t ignite a passion in me, which plays like this usually do.

It’s clever and balanced, but without warmth and too cool and clinical for my liking.

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