Magazine article Variety

Here We Go

Magazine article Variety

Here We Go

Article excerpt

Here We Go

THEATER: National, London; 890 seats; £15 ($22.50) top

PLAYWRIGHT: Caryl Churchill

Routinely described as Britain's greatest living playwright - arguably in a job-share with Tom Stoppard - Caryl Churchill can do in a 45-minute triptych what most writers take three full acts for. "Here We Go," her new play premiering at the National Theatre in London, is a sculpture of sorts: The more you stare at it, the more it reveals. What seems a straightforward meditation on death, a cry to carpe that diem, turns into a sharp reprimand to its audience: a clarion call - check your privilege.

With three scenes and a title, Churchill sets her trap. She ends with an extended show of an elderly man (Patrick Godfrey) repeatedly dressed and undressed by his caregiver (Hazel Holder). It's an interminable process, trouser legs tugged down one by one, arthritic arms eased into sleeves, underpants inched to the floor. The old man creaks to standing, supporting himself on his walker. He shuffles from his bed to his armchair, then repeats the whole process in reverse. It goes on and on: bed, armchair; armchair, bed. Under Dominic Cooke's meticulous direction, it takes 20 minutes. You feel every one.

What do we see? The tragedy of old age, the indignity of it, an old man reduced to a stiff husk and hardly aware of his circumstances, living an empty life on a loop. In taking her time, Churchill takes ours. The minutes ticking by are minutes we lose. The old man stares out at us with empty eyes.

What don't we see? The young black woman doing the dressing and undressing, living an empty life-loop of her own. Churchill misdirects us until the caregiver is practically invisible. The preceding scenes have made the old man the protagonist. The first is his funeral, and the second is his arrival in the afterlife. This cycle becomes his ending, but it's her entire life. …

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