Magazine article The Spectator

Theatre: Go See; Solomon and Marion

Magazine article The Spectator

Theatre: Go See; Solomon and Marion

Article excerpt

Go See

King's Head Theatre, until 29 November

Solomon and Marion

Print Room at the Coronet, until 29November

'It's not as bad as I thought it would be,' said Norman Mailer to his wife, Norris Church, after reading the first chapters of a novel she wrote in the 1970s. It took her decades to recover from this accolade and the book remained unpublished until 2000.

Here's a two-handed drama she drafted in the 1980s. The setting is a New York strip joint. A social anthropologist finds a girl in a booth and hires her to describe her daily life. He feeds her banknotes through a slot, like a zoo-keeper giving peanuts to a caged marmoset, and she prattles away at him earning a dollar every 60 seconds. She strongly suspects he's not a scientist but a self-deluding voyeur who disguises his carnal appetites as an intellectual investigation. Happens a lot, she says to him.

Cut to a new scene. Same city, same actors, same hairdos, different names. An aimless divorcé improvises a traffic accident in order to foist himself on a sad female cyclist. They chat, they bond, they drink fizzy pop. They head out to a sleazy bar. Then we cut back to the strip joint for more social anthropology. Then we're back at the sleazy bar for more fizzy pop.

The two scenes, which seem to overlap here and there, develop in parallel. It's a mystery. But not one that belongs to the mystery genre. The confusions of the plot are clumsy and unintentional, and only in the closing moments does it become clear why these poor, questing, damaged loners have fallen into each other's company. The man (named David or Paul) is a bisexual who may be in denial about his HIV status.

When Norris Church sketched out this play there was no more fashionable or dramatic theme than Aids. It was a new and incurable disease, and it began by killing your love life and ended by killing you. Early on in the medical panic, it was thought that only homosexuals and heroin-users were at risk. And this led some cynics to suggest that a semi-habitable island be set aside for druggies and gay men to indulge themselves to their hearts delight. That mission is now complete. It's called Ibiza.

Another two-hander at the Coronet in Notting Hill. Once a playhouse, then a movie theatre, now a playhouse again, the Coronet is the new home of the hit-and-miss Print Room. …

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