Magazine article The Spectator

Lexical Trivialities

Magazine article The Spectator

Lexical Trivialities

Article excerpt

A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky

Lyric, Hammersmith, until 5 June

Counting the Ways

Oval House

The Lyric theatre in Hammersmith has an eccentric approach to the dearth of writing talent. Unable to find a good playwright, it has commissioned three bad ones to showcase their talentlessness in a single work. One assumes that the three men were jesting when they described their collaborative method as 'writing scenes on rolls of wallpaper and passing one pen between us'. Or maybe they were being candid. The play is flawed at every level.

Narratively, the script is so dense that the drama can never achieve lift-off. Four brothers must meet and be reconciled before the fifth brother, suffering from cancer, expires. That's plenty of material there but the committee has added a cosmic event that will terminate life on planet Earth in two weeks' time. Rather surprisingly, despite the advent of Armageddon, the country functions perfectly normally. The trains, the currency, the media and the government keep ticking over as if nothing much was up. When the cataclysm occurs, the family gathers on a hillside and some lightbulbs go on. That's about it.

The characters are a collection of self-pitying autists and soup-brained posers. Their dialogue is a mixture of whimsy and white noise. 'Exeter's boring but I love swans, ' says someone for some reason. 'I wonder what it's like to be gassed to death at Birkenau, ' ponders another. At times the conversation climbs an Everest of polished improbability. 'This family is behaving like a colony of flabbergasted penguins, ' says a precocious teenager. A murderess begins her confession with, 'I had an altercation with a man defecating on the perfume counter at Selfridges.' Some of these word-events jab surprised laughter from the audience, but it's the hilarity of shock and disbelief, not of warmth and honesty. …

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