Essays on Politics and Literature

By Bernard Crick | Go to book overview

Twenty
Barrault at the Barbican

From the Times Higher Education Supplement, 4 November, 1983.

The lights dimmed into total darkness. Then a spot illuminated the great actor, black shirt and black trousers, miming walking up stairs, a routine mime-exercise done with mastery. There was huge applause for the 73-year-old cult hero both of the theatrical profession and all lovers of theatre. Then he began to speak, in French. The surprise should not have been too great, but as he went on and on, rustle and whispers spread as many waited for the performance to begin. But this was it. Now like most of the audience, I suspect, I certainly 'have to concentrate' and 'don't quite get every word', but he was going on and on, with beautiful gestures, eloquent face and hands part of the language, truly looking 20 years younger than we knew he was, so a good advertisement for part of what he was saying: 'By now I think I have contracted a religious fervour toward the human body. I don't mean the body limited to the skin and five senses but, let us call it, the integral, the magnetic, perhaps mystical body.'

I take this from a translated extract of a mere 150 words that appeared on a little leaflet on our seats, which was simply the first two minutes of a long lecture: 'And so I have wanted to compose a show that celebrates the language of the body by running in bird's eye view over the history of mime, of pantomime, both of breathed language and, more generally, of the "magnetic body".'

He used these exact words from the little leaflet. I make this point partly to convey something of the flavour but also, in view of what subsequently occurred, to make the point that there was a full script. Someone could have provided full programme notes as at a concert. Anyway, after about forty minutes of going on in a French philosophical way about mime being universal language of communication, punctuated or illustrated by two very brief mimes (that of the birds flying and of the man undressing on a stony beach and swimming) just as the paradox of talking about mime so fluently began to dawn on us and just as I was beginning

-254-

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Essays on Politics and Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vi
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Foreword ix
  • One - Literature and Politics 1
  • Two - The Political in Britain's Two National Theatres 20
  • Notes 47
  • Three - Young Writers of the Thirties 48
  • Four - Koestler's Koestler 62
  • Five - Hannah Arendt: Hedgehog or Fox? 72
  • Six - Beatrice Webb as English Diarist 78
  • Seven - Words 85
  • Notes 92
  • Eight - My LSE 93
  • Nine - Reading The Observer as a complex text 106
  • Notes 116
  • Ten - On the Difficulties of Writing Biography in? General and of Orwell's in particular 117
  • Eleven - Reading Nineteen Eighty-Four As Satire 133
  • Notes 163
  • Twelve - Animal Farm For Schools 166
  • Thirteen - Orwell and English Socialism 192
  • Notes 207
  • Fourteen - On the Orwell Trail 209
  • Notes 224
  • Fifteen - Wedekind's 'Spring Awakening' 225
  • Sixteen - Horvath's 'Tales From the Vienna Woods' 231
  • Seventeen - Pinter's 'No Man's Land' 239
  • Eighteen - Polly By Gaslight 245
  • Nineteen - David Edgar Catches Peter Jenkins' Ear at the Barbican 251
  • Twenty - Barrault at the Barbican 254
  • Index 257
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