Η ιδεαλίστρια Λόρι (Νίκολα Γουόκερ) και η ναρκομανής κόρη της υπουργού Εσωτερικών (Τζέσικα Ρέιν) σε μια σκηνή της παράστασης του Εθνικού Θεάτρου και ο Ντέιβιντ Χέαρ: πάντα σοσιαλιστής και πληγωμένος
Εδώ και λίγες μέρες ξαναχτυπά και πάλι από τη σκηνή του Εθνικού Θεάτρου της Αγγλίας. Το νέο του έργο («Γεθσημανή») είναι, όπως γράφει ο Μάικλ Μπίλινγκτον στην «Γκάρντιαν», η «κραυγή απελπισίας ενός ρομαντικού σοσιαλιστή απέναντι στον διευθυντικό πραγματισμό των μοντέρνων κυβερνήσεων και στον διαχωρισμό πολιτικής και οράματος». Το θέμα του είναι απλό: το Εργατικό Κόμμα στην αγωνία του να χρηματοδοτήσει τις δραστηριότητές του (στη Μεγάλη Βρετανία τα κόμματα δεν έχουν, όπως τα δικά μας, κρατικές επιδοτήσεις) πουλάει την ψυχή του στο διάβολο και μετατρέπει τη διακυβέρνηση της χώρας σε άσκηση δικής του επιβίωσης.
Πάνω στη σκηνή του Cotesloe συναντώνται πολιτικά και μη πρόσωπα. Βασική ηρωίδα είναι η Λόρι, μια ασυμβίβαστη ιδεαλίστρια πρώην δασκάλα, ο σύζυγος της οποίας αρχίζει να δουλεύει στον πλευρό του Οτο, στελέχους επιφορτισμένου με την εξασφάλιση πόρων για το Εργατικό Κόμμα. Οι ζωές τους συναντώνται με εκείνες της υπουργού Εσωτερικών, του μπλεγμένου σε οικονομικά σκάνδαλα συζύγου της και της εξαρτημένης από ναρκωτικά κόρης τους, που είχε κάποτε τη Λόρι για μέντορά της.
Σύμφωνα με την «Γκάρντιαν», η κορυφαία σκηνή του έργου εκτυλίσσεται στην Ντάουνινγκ Στριτ μεταξύ του πρωθυπουργού και της υπουργού του. Αυτός προσπαθεί να εκμαιεύσει την παραίτησή της, κι εκείνη τον «κρατά» με μαεστρία από την αχίλλειο πτέρνα του, τις ύποπτες σχέσεις του με επιχειρηματίες.
Η «Γεθσημανή» είναι το 14ο έργο του Χέαρ που ανεβαίνει στο Εθνικό Θέατρο της Αγγλίας (εδώ, άραγε, θα συνέβαινε εύκολα κάτι τέτοιο;). Μέσα στη σεζόν θα δούμε, πάντως, στο «Απλό Θέατρο» την «Ανάσα ζωής» σε σκηνοθεσία Αντώνη Αντύπα. Ο Χέαρ είναι γνωστός στην Ελλάδα από τη δεκαετία του '80, που το Θέατρο Τέχνης ανέβασε το «Πράβντα». Εχουν ακόμα ανεβεί τα έργα του «Μπλε δωμάτιο», «Γυάλινος ουρανός», «Η άποψη της Εϊμι» κ.ά.
Cottesloe Theatre, London
David Hare's new play Gethsemane transcends the publicity. It has been touted as a juicy piece about Labour's cash-for-honours problems. It turns out to be much richer than that - the despairing cry of a socialist romantic at the managerial pragmatism of modern government and at the separation of politics from vision.
by David Hare
Until February 24 2009
It stands comparison with Hare's very best work. His theme is the intersection of business, media and politics; and he illustrates this with a plot of pleasing complexity. It starts with Mike, a former civil servant married to an uncompromising ex-teacher, joining the staff of Labour fund-raiser Otto Fallon.
The story switches to the dilemma confronting home secretary Meredith Guest, coping with a drug-dependent daughter and a dodgy entrepreneurial husband facing criminal charges. The story's separate strands deftly intertwine as we learn Otto has used his influence to get Meredith's daughter, Suzette, out of trouble, and that Mike's wife, Lori, was once her mentor. On top of all that, 16-year-old Suzette has been part of a gang-bang involving a member of the fourth estate.
This is a rich mix; and one hears echoes of Hare's former plays - above all, Skylight, in which an East End teacher confronted a plutocratic restaurateur. Here it is Lori who acts as the moral conscience and who, trying to rescue the hapless Suzette, also engages in a stand-off with the influential Otto.
He tries to recruit her, explaining that government is simply based on "what works", and that money is raised through encounters between businessmen and the premier. Loris is appalled and declares it's as if "a group of people have taken over the running of things and the rest of us are standing by, powerless, watching, like at a car crash".
This is Hare's real theme: the alienation and impotence of idealists who see the party, in which they once invested so much hope, pimping for funds and turning governance into a form of survival. You could argue Hare never addresses the difficult question of how, in the absence of state funding, parties are meant to finance their activties; and there is an also an element of naivete about Mike, who, having joined Otto's team, eventually indulges in hand-wringing agony about its dubious practices.
But Hare is definitely onto something: the sense that a Labour government, above all, should be driven by something higher than a desire to get into bed with big business.
What also gives the play its life is Hare's understanding of how politics works. The best scene shows the beleaguered home secretary finally getting an audience with the PM. The latter is seen playing his drum kit.
What follows is an episode worthy of Granville Barker's Waste in which the icily manipulative leader tries to steer his minister into resigning. She, however, plays her cards with great skill, and aims unerringly at his achilles heel: his allegiance to wealth rather than his core voters. As played by the coolly resolute Tamsin Greig and the tactically resourceful Anthony Calf, the scene carries the authentic smell of Downing Street battles.
Howard Davies's beautifully marshalled production contains any number of good performances. Stanley Townsend lends Otto, who started as a Hendon hairdresser, exactly the right bumptious arrogance. Nicola Walker as Lori fulfils the role of truth-teller in a world of hypocrisy. Jessica Raine as Suzette reveals how politicans' children are of the system's first victims. And Pip Carter gives a neat cameo as Otto's svelte aide-de-camp.
But the real pleasure of the play lies in its analysis of the malaise at the heart of government. What, in particular, is a Labour government for, if its doesn't carry within its portfolio a map of Utopia? That is Hare's challenge and it demands an answer.
· This article was amended on Thursday November 13 2008 to correct a homophone.
Everyone's talking about Hare's new play at the National, but there's no need to remain tight-lipped if you haven't seen it. Pick and mix these quotes from the critics
"Good old David Hare," you exclaim. "You can always rely on him to make theatre relevant. Political. Now."
There was his powerful indictment of how government castrated the railways in The Permanent Way. Stuff Happens dished the dirt on Bush and Blair's handling of Iraq. And then "Britain's most polemical dramatist" (Guardian) took his attack on the Iraq war, The Vertical Hour, to Broadway with director Sam Mendes. When it comes to politics, you wryly quip, Hare cuts it.
To prove your point, you wave the broadsheet papers in your friends' faces. The reviews of his latest play Gethsemane, which again rips into Tony and his cronies, aren't in the arts pages. Oh no. They're on the Guardian's front page, and in the news sections of the Times and Independent. That's because this important play is "a despairing cry of a socialist romantic at the managerial pragmatism of modern government and at the separation of politics and vision," as Michael Billington puts it.
Gethsemane's "plot of pleasing complexity" (Guardian) takes in scandal at the heart of government. There's a cabinet minister whose businessman husband is facing trial for iffy deals; a fundraiser whose tactics could embarrass the party; and a PM who Benedict Nightingale in the Times describes as espousing "religion but [who] actually sees Downing Street as a stepping-stone to big worldly things, meaning loads of cash". Nightingale says his "natural tact" and "fear of libel" stop him from saying who these people actually resemble, but you, like Alice Jones in the Independent, have no such fear. "Half the fun," you say, "comes from spotting the parallels - a Jowell jibe here, a Deripaska dig there."
None of this, though, makes the playwright immune from criticism and you'll earn some respect by picking a few holes in his style. So say that the "weird way Hare thinks people talk" with their "repetitive ticks [sic] and neat aphorisms add up to an unconvincing play" (Independent) and his inclination "to idealise and sometimes sentimentalise intelligent self-sacrificing women" - as he does here with the schoolteacher Lori, who is "too obviously the play's beating heart" (Times) - means that parts of the drama "don't wash". You're in your stride now. "Increasingly, Hare's plays are beginning to seem more like lessons in civics, politics and morality rather than gripping dramas with characters who actually take us by surprise," you say, which happens to be what Charles Spencer in the Telegraph also thinks.
Aware that you might be getting a little too heavy-handed, you qualify that harder line by saying that "what also gives the play its life is Hare's understanding of how politics works. The best scene shows the beleaguered home secretary finally getting an audience with the PM. The latter is seen playing his drum kit." As the home secretary, Tamsin Greig is "coolly resolute" (Guardian) and "tough but vulnerable" (Times).
To anyone who argues, as Spencer does, that they tire of Hare's "urbane and condescending tone" and that this is "more like a dramatisation of a lengthy article in the New Statesman", hit back with Billington's line: this play is an "analysis of the malaise at the heart of government." And then, in case no one had noticed, assert that its title references the place where great ideals were sold for a bribe of 30 pieces of silver - or was it a knighthood?
Do say: New Labour, new drama
Don't say: I thought Tony Blair played the guitar?
Reviews reviewed: A new spin on political theatre