David Benedict on theatre

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The Independent Culture
Beware David Hare. He's a dangerous sort. His way of insisting that audiences use their brains in the theatre simply ruins a decent night out. I rather suspect that he's a bit of a subversive, and does anyone know if Senator Joe McCarthy is still alive?

That is the gist of one of the more terrifyingly foolish reviews of Hare's masterly Skylight, whose author began with a warning. "I won't give you a clue to David Hare's social message in Skylight... because it might spoil an otherwise impeccable play for you. I dislike being pushed around by metaphors, so I've trained my mind to miss them. All you need to know is that Michael Gambon and Lia Williams (above right) give great performances as human beings in a Kilburn flat."

Thank goodness. Audiences can relax safe in the knowledge that even if the naughty playwright has some nasty ideas up his sleeve (of the Pinko commie variety, I'll be bound), the acting renders them invisible. He then praises Richard Eyre for making them unnoticeable until the point of leaving the theatre when this "social beauty of a metaphor" struck him "with agreeable force".

This man must have a hard time watching Shakespeare (famous for his shameless use of metaphor) or any other playwright save, perhaps, Ray Cooney. Foolishly, I thought that theatre was all about metaphor, the excitement of imagining possibilities, giving dramatic flesh to a collision of ideas, and setting an audience's mind and pulse racing. No. Apparently we should just sit and watch human beings divorced from ideas.

The critic in question would certainly dislike David Greig's new play, The Architect. I have only read it, but it's clear that he has the temerity to address ideas like the collapse of idealism, disillusionment, sex, politics... oh my God he even uses metaphor. Whatever happened to real plays? What's wrong with French windows and a drinks trolley?

`The Architect' is at the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh. `Skylight' is at Wyndham's Theatre, London WC2 (0171-369 1736)

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