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Blasted, Bonded & Bothered

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On successive nights at the end of last week we had the best production of Sarah Kane’s Blasted I’ve seen, at the Lyric Hammersmith, and the first-ever performance of Edward Bond’s latest, There Will Be More, at the Cock Tavern.

Whereas Blasted, discussing equally the limits of war, experience, and theatre, seems to conform exactly to what Bond describes as the need for irrational drama to make us human, his own play toys rationally with tragic Greek archetypes and makes us inhuman; or, perhaps, just indifferent.

It’s the tragic lyricism in Blasted that is so moving (I’m not sure Bond in any play wants us to be “moved”; he wants us to “feel”), the poetry of the appalling scenario that is so well realased in Sean Holmes’ production.

Sitting in the Cock is like sitting in a rabbit hutch. It’s no place for drama, but hyper-realism can be effective in the circumstances. And anyway, in the programme, Bond says “we have no drama: only the trickling sump of theatre.”

By which, I think he means stuff like War Horse. In his “six little essays” (also in the programme) Bond comments that Nick Clegg celebrated the first hundred days of the coalition government by going to a performance: “the corrupt mingling with the puppets.” He adds: “We know that David Cameron can put a bun in the oven. It is unfortunate that he has to take the bread away from the poor.”

It is gratifying to see that Bond is not maturing with age, and his unaccommodating anger is nearly as attractive as Harold Pinter's. And it's of course the sure sign of individuality in any artist that he or she loathes what everyone else is doing, as well as the overall cosiness of the status quo.

That condition is aptly illustrated in the overwhelming ordinariness of West End revivals such as The Country Girl and When We Are Married and the supine uniformity of the reviews they attract. Bad Bond is preferable to that, always.

So I'm in a quandary over There Will Be More. It's a harsh distillation of Greek tragedy, and not nearly as good as The Women, Bond's last full-length epic on the National Theatre stage quarter of a century ago.

But it lacks the working-class demotic speech of his best early work and it obliterates all lyrical tendency with an almost indecent viciousness. But it's alive, and it's dreadful, and it's challenging. And it doesn't have Jenny Seagrove or Maureen Lipman in it.

Back in the real world, Neil Constable, the genial general manager of the Almeida, is on his way to the Globe, making room for James Bierman's arrival from the Donmar.

The Globe, actually, is the one London theatre where Bond could conceivably find a home. Dominic Dromgoole is a great Bond lover and champion. Might he not set about commanding an open air epic from the savage sage, just as he's restored Howard Brenton to the (almost) mainstream fray with a couple of imaginative commissions? 


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