You know the story. The abduction of Helen. The wooden horse. The fall of Troy.Simon Armitage’s new play is a vivid re-engineering of Homer and Virgil, a meditation on ‘own’ and ‘other’, an unblinkered look at the costs and sorrows of war. In truth, a play about war (rather than a lion hunt, say, another ancient theme) will always be of the moment: Achilles mutilating Hector’s corpse; a British soldier giving a thumbs-up over the body of a dead insurgent.
To many, the plays will evoke the world of Fawlty Towers; and it should come as no surprise, therefore, to learn that John Cleese has often expressed his admiration for Feydeau. It is interesting in this regard to look at Les Paves de l’ours from 1896, a play wherein an upper-class bachelor employs a country bumpkin as a man-servant, believing him to be ‘a diamond in the rough’.
This last dance is, as well as being thrilling and climactic and incredibly moving, simply an incredible performance. For how do you attain in dance an absolute abandonment (one culminating in the loss of life itself) while retaining always at least a crumb of control? Death may no longer be a taboo; but dying is.
The book is enjoyable to read, humorous, and informative, and contains a great deal of black and white images that comprise virtually a walking tour of theatres in NY and Brooklyn.
Seeing the play gave me a strong sense of how theater might connect with contemporary reality, with daily conversation and our own lives and public choices. It’s easy to have a conversation after such a play about our own recent political phenomena, easy to talk about how we compromise our own ethics or repress our personal complexity to fit in…