HANDLING BACH Greenwich Theatre, London: Theatre
Friday 18 August 1995
It must have seemed like a great idea, an imaginary meeting between the two baroque geniuses who never actually met - despite several attempts by Bach who once walked 20 miles to see Handel and failed. They were both German, both born in 1685, both went blind (despite the efforts of the same eye surgeon) yet were utterly dissimilar in terms of contemporary fame and fortune.
Hilary Tooley's intriguing programme note draws their astrological charts, suggesting that on the surface they would have had much in common "sharing strong egos, powerful desires to achieve, philosophical beliefs, charm..." She then warns us that "soon the tensions between the two men would begin to show". And lo...
The rich and famous Handel (David Henry, a dead ringer for Frankie Howerd in a powdered wig) has come to Leipzig towards the end of his life where the impoverished church cantor Bach is being made a member of the Society of Sciences. Handel inveighs against the notion, bellowing: "Music isn't a science, it's a business." Bill Stewart's bluff, blunt, north-country-toned Bach arrives for an elaborate meal and the rest of the evening is a battle of egos.
Unfortunately, where Shaffer created highly theatrical characterisations and dramatic metaphors for his quasi-philosophical musings on music, immortality and God, Barz never manages to pull off the same trick. His protagonists swing back and forth revealing professional jealousies in a debate centred around the Messiah vs. the St. Matthew Passion, but the argument, full of sound and fury thanks to the energetic cast, never takes wing. Matthew Francis, the director, uses excerpts from the composers' works (played and sung by the excellent Peter Hayward and Matthew Dixon lurking about Lez Brotherston's neat set) but Barz fails to dramatise the ideas.
Perhaps it's time to call a halt to dead composers on stage. Taking Sides examines the life of Wilhelm Furtwangler and there's even a fictional one in Burning Blue. What next? An imaginary meeting between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Peter Maxwell Davies?
n Greenwich Theatre. Booking: 0181-858 7755
Review: Of Mice and Men
By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work
Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar
What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?
Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings
The actor has confessed to his own insecurities
Allotments are the focus of a new reality show
Arts & Ents blogs
The best movies on Netflix: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
Record Store Day 2014: Best exclusives coming to a UK independent record shop near you
Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark
Lady Gaga and Ozzy Osbourne's lyrics named hardest to understand
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 KFC 'sorry' after lesbian couple are kicked out of Bath restaurant for 'heavy petting'
- 2 West Ham confirm 20-year-old striker Dylan Tombides has died after battle with cancer
- 3 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 4 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 5 PFA Player of the Year: Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard all nominated as Liverpool dominate award shortlist