This post is inspired by a few thoughts I’ve recently had and also an interview I read a few weeks ago with Quentin Letts, The Daily Mail’s Theatre Critic. I’m not a reader of The Daily Mail (phew I hear a few of you say!), unless I’m around my dad’s as he gets it. So I’ve seldom read any of his reviews, or his writing. I’ve also no idea where I read the interview with Quentin Letts which is a shame, I think it was The Stage (or possibly the Evening Standard), but I can’t seem to source it now.
Anyway he made a very valid point that a large proportion of modern plays tend to focus on the worst possible people and scenarios, that they wallow in the slurry of 21st Century Britain. That modern playwrights use too much disgusting language and that the Theatre which could give people aspirations doesn’t seem to be aspiring to that.
I finished reading Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, the other day and I have to say I’m a bit disappointed. This has been the “hit” play recently and all it is about is a vile doser and bunch of chavs. Now I’m sure Mark Rylance’s performance as Johnny Byron was superb and I can imagine for many going to see the performance was a key element of them going. However as a piece of drama, I found the play lacking. I also found it a very hopeless piece (perhaps Jez Butterworths aim?).
The play is going to Broadway and it’ll be interesting to see how the Americans respond, however I feel a bit ashamed that this is showcasing “Britain” to them, a bunch of foul mouthed, loose, selfish,drug taking, freeloaders.
I appreciate I sound like “disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” (ironic as I’m from TW), and I’m not averse to plays being used to show us the more unsightly aspects of society or being used to shock, or having “fruity language” but are playwrights being lazy by using the worst of society and placing it on stage as spectacle for the middle classes? While thinking about this I thought how would I write a play that showed something a bit more positive and my answer was that it’s pretty difficult. (I may take up my own challenge one day).
Well I’m not offering any answers, and I’m still thinking this through. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood Jerusalem.
Thoughts and comments more than welcome!