A resurrection that would have been better off left in The Killing Jar

‘Resurrection Blues’ should have been an ideal play to kick off Easter weekend but we’d over enthusiastically booked our pricey Old Vic tickets before the reviews came out. By the time we got there, the critics had savaged my favourite living film director’s production of Arthur Miller’s final play. Indeed, it was about to close early. It couldn’t be as bad as the reviews said, could it? No, it was worse. The play had nothing going for it (a satire? Barely a comedy). Most of the actors were no longer taking it too seriously (Matthew Modine had a particularly embarrassing role, while Jane Adams had already jumped ship after an alleged altercation with another actor): you had to feel sorry for an embarrassed looking James Fox, given a huge role that nobody could have made convincing. His British toff was meant to be the cousin of a (wildly overacted) Latin American director and father of an American depressive (Neve Campbell giving the best performance of the evening, though she had the advantage of not being onstage much). At least Altman had cut the play so much since opening night that we were at the first interval by twenty past eight and out an hour later, heading off for an excellent meal at Rules. And we saw Kevin Spacey in the bar: fair does to him for not hiding from the fall out from this abysmal excuse for a play, a dying man’s folly.

We had breakfast at the wonderful Borough Market, where we met old friends and their children for conversation and shopping. There were freshly grilled scallops with smoked bacon for lunch. Maurice reminisced about being taught by the late John McGahern, a writer we both love, and seeing the Old Vic’s last comparable disaster, Peter O’Toole’s ‘Macbeth’ (at least that was a good play). Then we went to Tate Modern where the children had a terrific time exploring Rachel Whiteread’s bricks.

We’re heading off to Berlin for a few days before term starts, but I want to finish with a plug for a novel I’ve just read, the first by a student from my time running the Creative Writing MA at Nottingham Trent. When you’ve seen a novel evolve over many workshops and then marked a long extract as a dissertation, it’s hard to work up the same enthusiasm to read it as you would were you approaching it fresh. But Nicola Monaghan’s The Killing Jar has evolved in the two years since she finished the MA and I read it without a trace of ennui. Indeed, I devoured it over the weekend just gone. It’s a compelling, at times horrifying read, with a horribly convincing account of a childhood and adolescence on a Nottingham sink estate where drugs and dealing seem the only worthwhile life on offer. Nicola gets the reader to empathise with a young narrator who could easily have become one of those cheap, sensationalised druggies you get in Irvine Welsh, but instead holds our sympathy, even as she commits acts of utter depravity. Nicola’s already had tons of great reviews for this debut novel, and she deserves them.

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