THE LUNCH AND THE BOW OF ULYSSES, 4Star****, London, To 05 11 16

Lunch and The Bow of Ulysses
Steven Berkoff

Trafalgar Studio, to 05 11 16
Runs 90 minutes without interval
Review: Tom Aitken, 11 October 2016

Stylish presentation of difficult lives
This play is about a couple who, when dealing with each other, behave and speak perversely and irritatingly. Although, much of the time, they are verbally very funny, the play is in many respects quite savage. As the director writes, ‘these people aren’t necessarily lovely. They’re vulnerable, powerful, predatory, submissive, smart, verbose and shy.

According to the Director, Nigel Harman [Berkoff] ‘doesn’t spend much time on their good points – he focuses on the dark side of our humanity.’ Nevertheless, ‘It’s also uniquely funny in that respect. [Audiences] are not coming here to be punched in the face all night long; there are moments of comedic genius.’

As Harman’s remarks indicate, neither Emily nor Shaun is particularly approachable. They tend to talk about whatever momentarily concerns them, and therefore whatever is said by one is seldom of interest to the other.

Their first meeting occurs during a lunch break during the 1970s, on a pier, as it were midway between land and sea.
When the audience is admitted to Studio 2 the woman is sitting in the pier. She watches them arrive, inspecting some unfortunates hesitating about where they should sit with silent scorn and distaste. When Man detaches himself from the male arrivals the talk between Man and Woman begins. The meeting, as we shall see, climaxes with their extremely noisy and energetic burst of sex.

The following twenty years pass by in the time it takes for the remaining actors to detach themselves from the audience and enter the acting area. Then we see Woman and Man’s final, aggrieved, sexless spoken encounter. Woman seems now to be very much the commanding presence. What have you ever done for me? is the burden of her emotionally charged questioning.

Much of the action and the dialogue provokes laughter. But it is uneasy laughter much of the time.

As indicated above, the second part of the play is called The Bow of Ulysses. I suppose this must be a pointer to Man’s bullying treatment of woman and that the arrows are symbols of the penis. The Bow of Ulysses, was made by Ulysses and was powerful enough to drive an arrow through three men in armour, or twelve axeheads.. The number of women it could penetrate is not, so far as my researches have informed me, recorded.

Emily Bruni: Woman
Shaun Dooley: Man

Director: Nigel Harman
Movement Director: Alastair David
Design: Gregor Donnelly
Lighting: Joshua Carr
Sound and Music: Ben and Max Ringham

2016-10-12 15:31:47

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