Magazine article The Spectator

War of the Divas

Magazine article The Spectator

War of the Divas

Article excerpt

August: Osage County 15, Nationwide

If you and your family are bored - if, for example, it's one of those dull Sunday afternoons that seem to drag on for ever and it feels as if it's never going to be time for The Antiques Road Show - you could gather together and play your own version of the family drama August: Osage County. Firstly, you will need to pretend it is hot, as this is August, in Osage County, Oklahoma, where it is not just hot, but Cat on a Hot Tin Roof hot, and so you will all have to repeatedly fan yourselves and say: 'It's so hot' or 'the heat!'

There will be no evidence it is so scorchingly, searingly, blisteringly hot; no damp patches under the arms or wet across the back or any sweat at all, so it's not like you actually have to whack the heating up or anything, which is a blessing, energy prices being what they are. You just keep having to saying it's hot - hot enough to kill tropical birds! - in the hope the audience will buy it.

The storyline? OK, the storyline you will be enacting, while fanning yourself, concerns three daughters returning to their childhood home and their mother after the suicide of their father, a drunken poet. (Not a happy subject, but what's the alternative? Ludo?

One of those pointless walks? ) The mother, Violet, is pill-addicted and suffers from mouth cancer, which seems appropriate, as she is vicious and never has anything nice to say. If you wish to go all out, you may include the prologue, which has Violet mercilessly taunting her husband while he was still alive. Violet, I should also tell you, has suffered hair loss from chemotherapy and sometimes wears a wig and sometimes doesn't, and when she doesn't she looks like a half-plucked chicken. I am telling you this because if someone in your household looks like a half-plucked chicken anyhow, they would be ideal for the role.

The daughters. The daughters are Barbara, who hasn't visited in several years;

Ivy, who has hung around, rather unhappily; and Karen, who arrives with her flashy fiance. If you wish to cherry-pick the best role for yourself - and why not? - it is probably Barbara, as played by Julia Roberts on screen, as you get to beat up Violet, as played by Meryl Streep on screen, and in addition, at one mealtime, when Violet is about to reveal something truly, truly awful, as is Violet's way, you will be able to shout at her, over and over: 'Eat your fucking fish, bitch!', which is marvellous, quite the highlight of this kitsch diva war. …

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