Fabrication, The Print Room, London
Tuesday 16 November 2010
Lucy Bailey made her name with sizzling theatrical adaptations of steamy movies (Baby Doll and The Postman Always Rings Twice). In a piquant twist to that manoeuvre, she now presents the UK premiere of one of the six stage plays written by the Marxist film director Pier Paolo Pasolini. Her arresting production of Fabrication (Affabulazione, 1975) launches The Print Room, an attractive 80-seater venue created from a warehouse in Notting Hill.
To open a new theatre in these straitened times is an intrepid gesture and it's a comparably bold move to inaugurate it with Pasolini's bizarre homosexual make-over of the Oedipus myth. It begins with an ominous dream that unmans the protagonist, a liberal Milanese industrialist (superb Jasper Britton) who free-falls into a nervous breakdown that leads him to religion, murder and ruin. His beautiful, blonde 19-year-old son (an unwitting dreamboat in Max Bennett's fine performance) becomes the appalled object of his erotic obsession and as he wrestles with these primitive desires, the older man frantically struggles and fails to make sense of them.
The audience sits on three sides of what looks like a giant funerary casket that splits open at the start as though to disclose the inner workings of a morbid mind. Britton's Father pulls off the considerable trick of being both absurdly monomaniac and very moving as he compulsively theorises and invents barmy Oedipal scenarios (being caught in flagrante delicto with his wife, say) for a son who refuses to conform by rebelling. Roles are ironically reverse. In confessing to a fixated prurience about the boy's untried virility, the Father feels that he has entered a socially disruptive second adolescence.
The donnish ghost of Sophocles (Martin Turner) intervenes periodically to point out that the Son is not an enigma, susceptible to reason, but a mystery that must be experienced. When he directed his film of Oedipus Rex, Pasolini confessed that he had only ever dreamed of making love to his fascist soldier-father. That probably accounts for the fact that, in this play's compelling mix of semi-autobiographical passion and intertextual parody, the Jocasta figure barely gets a look-in. Whatever else they are, the Father and the Son here are definitely not mummy's boys.
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