Thursday, 31 July 2014

Non-review: A Bright Room Called Day

I'm not calling this a review because I can't comment on the whole show: I left at the interval. Tony Kushner's A Bright Room Called Day was written in the 1980s, in response to Ronald Reagan barely acknowledging, let alone helping fight, the AIDS epidemic. Kushner compares the situation with the rise of Hitler in 1930s Germany: Suggesting, on the one hand, that the most dangerous periods in history are those when people get a bit too comfortably complacent in society's progress, allowing the right wing to take hold insidiously. And on the other hand, saying that regarding the Holocaust as the ultimate evil has allowed the powerful to get away with more than they should, that they escape criticism because even if they're mass-murderers, they're not quite as bad as the Nazis.

Kushner's mouthpiece for these views is Zillah (Charlotte Jacobs,) a young American who writes angry letters to Reagan every day, despite knowing the President will never see them. But most of the action takes place among a group of actors and filmmakers in the Weimar Republic. I say most of the action, but there is none. As Zillah speechifies to the audience, so the 1930s Germans do to each other.

"The playwright has opinions. Let me explain them to you in some detail."

For someone who went on to become a well-loved playwright, this early effort of Kushner's is the worst kind of political theatre: The kind that utterly forgets to be theatre. Instead, the main characters just announce their beliefs to each other, and bemoan their failure to help stop the rise of fascism; while the modern-day figure explains why this theme is universal. Perhaps something actually happened to the characters in the second act, but as they're not quite characters so much as representatives of their political beliefs, I didn't care enough to find out what that might be. Between a hot room, and characters who do nothing except shout at each other about the fact that they're doing nothing, I decided that if I was going to fall asleep anyway, it might as well be back home in bed.

A Bright Room Called Day by Tony Kushner is booking until the 16th of August at Southwark Playhouse's Little Theatre.

Running time: Advertised as 2 hours 30 minutes including interval.

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