THE DYING OF TODAY
by Howard Barker.
The Other Room at Porter’s, Bute Terrace CF10 2FE To 11 April 2015.
Runs 1hr No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 April.
Great issues well tackled in a little room..
In the background to William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors there’s enmity between the Greek city of Syracuse and the Sicilian state of Ephesus, two of the most powerful places in their countries. It means little today, but in 315BC, during the Peloponnesian War, Athens attacked Ephesus, for no very clear reason. They were defeated, their navy mostly killed, at sea or escaping on land. With no marathon man to speed the news to Athens, it eventually arrived via talk in a barber’s shop.
Such a shop is the setting for Howard Barker’s play, in a present day where classic cruelty still shapes lives: the shop closes, despite its expectant clientele, suddenly cut-off from the flow of life when bad news arrives.
Who has the power in such a situation? The one with the skill and the razor? Or the paying customer? Power lies in the one with knowledge. Leander Deeny’s slight, acrobatic figure darts around, holding-out his arms with the force of an avenging angel, or a devil, sure of the power of the news he brings.
News which the Barber senses; the death of his son. If Deeny moves with the power of judgment, Christian Patterson’s larger figure stands motionless in shock; and rage, when he sweeps everything in sight to the ground, tearing-up paper, calling-out in fury and pain.
Both performances are accomplished, Deeny’s in its mercurial evasiveness, Patterson’s in a physical and emotional intensity which is more solidly rooted in stillness, including amazement when he finds himself in the customer’s chair. Technically, Patterson has a rare ability to hurl agony and anger at full volume – in a small room too – without losing any of the emotional identity in the character’s voice.
Kate Wasserberg hasn’t opened her new Cardiff theatre with easy options. Her ‘Life in Close Up’ season (it could have been ‘Death In Close Up’) places the Barker after Sarah Kane’s Blasted, where the Bosnian conflict erupts in a Leeds hotel bedroom. Barker’s Barber faces universal and personal destruction, leaving him nothing but to clear the place in the after-shock of human error without the comedy.
Dneister: Leander Deeny.
The Barber: Christian Patterson.
Director: Kate Wasserberg.
Sound: Dyfan Jones.
Assistant director: Dan Jones.