LEE HARVEY OSWALD: A FAR MEAN STREAK OF INDEPENDENCE BROUGHT ON BY NEGLECK
by Michael Hastings.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 22 November 2013.
12.30pm 22 Nov.
2pm 18, 19 Nov.
7.30pm 17, 18 Nov.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 November.
50th anniversary of a President’s death through the story of the man who killed him.
In his 1966 play Michael Hastings went some way to creating ‘tribunal’ drama; the edited transcript of a judicial investigation, developed in recent years particularly at Kilburn’s Tricycle Theatre.
It’s one aspect of the script Hastings wrote after reading the 800 page Warren Report, plus 26 volumes of supporting evidence, into the assassination of American President John F Kennedy.
Hastings elides the investigation into one man, called the Commission who, certainly in Alex Thorpe’s Finborough revival, turns-up commandingly with questions amid the disordered lives of Lee, Russian wife Marina, and mother Marguerite.
Between the Commission-derived material, the playwright develops his own story of a poor White Southern US family, investigating an historical phenomenon summed-up more than once by German playwright Bertolt Brecht as ‘Pontius Pilate in the creed’ – a small person caught-up in the record of historically significant figures.
Brecht also pointed-out there are no great historical villains, only little villains committing great crimes. Everything seen of Oswald in Adam Gillen’s alternately aggressive and pathetic characterisation shouts his insignificance – living in poverty around his mother, arguing with his wife, unable to control his temper or explain his feelings (the subtitle reflects his spelling), finally getting a job through a personal connection in the Texas Book Depository from which Kennedy was shot.
Except according to people who postulate complex conspiracies and alternative sightings. In the light of this play, their explanations resemble attempts to offload Shakespeare’s plays onto an aristocrat – an assumption great works must be carried-out by important persons. Whereas it could be as simple as an insignificant man taking an envious pot-shot as the most powerful man in the world, the shield of glamour for once pierced by a sharp bitterness. Why did Oswald shoot Kennedy? Because he was there.
Much the same might be said if asked why see this play. It doesn’t pretend to explain more than how Oswald’s life was up to the day the President came to town. Elements that once gave dramatic weight can seem unnecessary, the profile of Oswald simplistic. But it comes from half-a-century ago and theatre often did things differently then.
Commission: Patrick Poletti.
Marina: Gemma Lawrence.
Marguerite: Hilary Tomes.
Lee: Adam Gillen.
Director: Alex Thorpe.
Designer: Katie Lias.
Lighting: Tom Cooper.
Music: Angus MacRae.
Voice consultant: Richard Ryder.
Fight director: Richard Hay.
Assistant director: Elizabeth Bacon.