Theatre: Uneven path to camp heaven
HUSHABY MOUNTAIN LIVERPOOL EVERYMAN
Monday 08 February 1999
As in Guiding Star, his recent National Theatre play which tackled the emotional fall-out of the Hillsborough disaster, the subject here is the guilt and anger of the survivor. Suppose you had lost your lover to Aids. After six months, you embark on an uneasy friendship with a much younger man who also turns out to be HIV positive. Except that, as this new troubled relationship develops, so does the research that has now significantly increased the life expectancy of sufferers. How would you feel about that? Not unmixed. Helped by fine performances from Stuart Laing as Connor, the survivor and Andrew This Life Lincoln as the dying, then posthumous Danny, it's these conflicted pangs that the play, at its considerable best, explores in all their tragicomic messiness.
There's a simple but very telling device in the piece which allows Harvey to present the "then" and the "now" of Aids and its effects with an unsentimentally poignant parallelism. Again and again, whether in hotel room, restaurant, beach, or at the flat of E-guzzling, coke-snorting best friend and husband (Rose Keegan and excellent David Kennedy), the new lover will retreat to the bathroom (or wherever) and Danny will re-emerge through the same door, dissolving the past into the present. I could have done without the tingly, slightly supernatural music that accompanies these temporal shifts in Paul Miller's English Touring Theatre production. And it's true, too, that in the economy of the play, Danny remains in Connor's life only as complete memories and not - as one tends to remember loved ones - as a still-active presence in one's head, arguing and intervening (an uncomfortable truth Peter Nichols brilliantly dramatised in Forget-Me-Not Lane). But as a means of conveying the heart-twisting unfairness of it all, this clever structural scheme is truly inspired.
There are sequences - like the one where Danny tells his friends he's tested positive and the dinner party unravels in all sorts of chaotic, unpredictable, painfully funny ways - that demonstrate Harvey's generous and acute powers of observation. The price you have to pay for this is watching the bafflingly inferior sections that show Danny awaiting entry to spangly, camp heaven. For reasons you would have to be God to understand, the delay seems to have been caused by Danny's estranged mother (Elizabeth Estensen). Down on earth, she's in a mental ward; up in the skies, she rows a boat and thinks she's Judy Garland. Well, which of us doesn't? All the same, you wish this clumsily integrated figure would fall overboard.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food