Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Classy American Wartime Tale You Really Must Catch

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Classy American Wartime Tale You Really Must Catch

Article excerpt

NO point beating around the | bush. This is a very classy show and hugely enjoyable. Long, yes, at more than three hours... but in my experience nothing this good ever seems that long.

It must have helped that Joseph Heller had written his own stage version of his famous novel in which a sane man tries to prove his madness when all around are clearly barking.

But in the wrong hands this would have been no guarantee of success. There is no strong, whodunit-style plot to carry cast and audience through choppy waters to the final curtain.

No, everything about Catch-22 puts the ball firmly in the court of the director (in this case the American Rachel Chavkin - well done to her), the actors (nine of them playing a multitude of parts) and the creative folk around them.

It is an exploration of bureaucratic absurdity set within the con-fines of a US Second World War bomber unit and encapsulated in the mythical, mystical Catch-22 rule which ensures you'll never win however hard you try.

The action is episodic, turning the idea of institutional and personal madness over and over and presenting it in different ways.

And I can promise that you don't have to have served in a wartime air force unit to find parallels within your own life. I laughed in recognition rather more than I might have thought feasible - or healthy!

The play begins with airman Yossarian being upbraided by his Commanding officer, Colonel Cathcart, for having taken two attempts - the second one successful - to bomb a bridge. What was he thinking? He could have got someone killed? A solution is found, thanks to the intervention of Cathcart's brighter assistant, Lieutenant Colonel Korn: he will be given a medal - and promoted. But only if he promises to say nice things about them.

Everything in this world is topsy turvy and everyone has a hidden agenda except poor Yossarian who is utterly honest at all times. …

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