Monday, 15 September 2014
Theatre review: True West
Saul (Steven Elliot) is amused by Lee's rough charm, and when he loses a bet agrees to option his muddled plot for a modern western, hiring Austin to write the screenplay for this instead of his own script.
True West is one of those pieces that left me now quite sure what I thought of it. On the one hand it's easy to see how it's become an iconic American story: Hollywood is for many people the very definition of the American Dream, but then you could argue that so is the call-of-the-wild image of a man alone communing with, and conquering, nature. So there's a credence to the initially unlikely notion that Austin would to some degree wish himself in Lee's tattered shoes. And this is all wrapped up in an epic sibling rivalry played out on an intimate scale, a family drama with the threat of violence constantly barely below the surface.
But at the same time I felt at something of a remove throughout. Shepard's structuring of the play is impressive but I felt I was admiring it from the outside rather than being sucked in. This may have been in part due to the relentless intensity - from about half an hour in every scene feels climactic, and after a while this becomes exhausting to watch.
This isn't to detract from Breen's spot-on production, which fires on all cylinders. Max Jones' widescreen set, with the curtains sliding together like black bars for the scene changes, enhances the cinematic effect. And the leads are excellent - as Ian said in the interval, nobody can do a death glare quite like Ferns, and O'Hare sweats buckets as the restrained writer trying to break out into a creature of undisguised emotion like his brother. It's undoubtedly a stellar production but I was left unable to deny the play itself is good, without ever really feeling it: A wildly emotional piece of work that ironically played to my mind but not my emotions.
True West by Sam Shepard is booking until the 4th of October at the Tricycle Theatre.
Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes including interval.