Just back from London, where we saw the Monty Python musical (great fun, though Peter Davison doesn’t have much of a singing voice) and David Hare’s latest play, ‘The Vertical Hour’ at the Royal Court. This is worth catching, with strong performances from the three leads, although it was hard to credit the sexual tension needed between Anton Lesser and Indira Varma who’s more than a decade younger than Julianne Moore, who played the part on Broadway, and this weakens the play, as do the didactic bookends. Like Hare, I was against the invasion of Iraq, but a play’s far more dramatically effective if the arguments are balanced, leaving us to make up our own minds. Instead, he seemed to be writing it for a Sloane Square audience who already agreed with him. Still, there was plenty of food for thought in this very talky play, and I discovered that the cheap gallery seats at the RC are fine for watching this kind of curiously old fashioned piece. On the train down, I read the Christmas Fiction issue of ‘The New Yorker’ which contains a fine anniversary piece on Pinter’s ‘The Homecoming’ by John Lahr. This is one of the best plays of the last 50 years and has certain similarities to Hare’s play (in Pinter, the professor son brings home a new wife from America who his father, Max, attempts to seduce. In Hare, the girlfriend is the academic) but ‘The Homecoming’ is so subtle and acute in its display of how power works that it makes Hare’s play look incredibly old fashioned and naive – a bit like Pinter’s anti-American poetry. Anyhow, ‘The Vertical Hour’ got lousy reviews and deserved better. Ignore the first five minutes (in which the bit part actor does a terrible Nicholas Cage impression) and the last five (a simplistic, silly ending that undermines the complexity of the play’s most interesting character) and it’s an absorbing play, well worth seeing from the cheap seats.

Oh, and, while I’m being superserious, here’s the new REM video, the one song from their forthcoming album that didn’t feature in the gigs we saw in Dublin last summer. It’s rather good. Their UK tour dates will be announced any day now.


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