YOU’RE HUMAN LIKE THE REST OF THEM
Not Counting the Savages & Down Red Lane
By B.S. Johnson
4 Stars ****
Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SE10 9ED to 25 March 2017.
Sun & Mon 7.30pm Mat Tues 2pm.
Runs 70 mins No interval.
Review: William Russell 6 March.
A playwright rewardingly rediscovered
Fascinating, funny – and at times puzzling – this triple bill of three short plays by the novelist, poet and film maker B.S. Johnson is well worth catching. Johnson, who committed suicide in 1973 aged 40, was an innovative, experimental and radical writer, but not a name that springs to mind – at least to my mind. His work, however, was highly regarded at the time and still is – there is a B.S. Johnson society – and these rarely performed plays directed by Carla Kingham are well worth rediscovering.
The first one, Not Counting the Savages, is a terse piece in which a woman is confronted by a flasher on the heath, her husband could not care less, her son gets a kick out of the very idea and her daughter tells her to grin and bear it. The marriage is duly destroyed, the family unit deeply damaged. In the second play, Down Red Lane. a newly rich man has discovered the pleasures of the dinner table, much to the horror of his belly which finds it all too much to endure. The actor stuffs himself, the belly lurks beneath the table complaining while the waiter flutters round adding more and more to the diner’s plate.
In the third one, You’re Human Like the Rest of Them. a teacher with a back complaint told about the construction of the spine by his doctor– it is not designed to do the things we demand of it – returns to his class and embarks on a lecture about how we are all rotten to the core and will in due time pass away. It may sound grim, but in fact is very funny as Johson sees laughter as something humans use to counter the horrors of life, to make living endurable.
It is a short evening, but the cast do justice to the plays with Bertie Taylor-Smith as the callous son and Haakon, the demented teacher, playing both to the hilt, just this side of camp, which is as it should be, and Sarah Berger impressive as the disregarded, discarded mother.
Not Counting the Savages
Wife: Sarah Berger.
Husband: Brian Deacon.
Rosa: Emma Paetz.
Jerry: Bertie Taylor-Smith.
Down Red Lane
Waiter: Bertie Taylor-Smith.
Diner: Reginald Edwards.
Belly: Alex Griffin-Griffiths.
You’re Human Like the Rest of Them
Haakon: Bertie Taylor-Smith
Physiotherapist: Sarah Berger.
Miss Hammond: Emma Paetz.
Director: Carla Kingham.
Costume & Set Designer: Ruta Trbite.
Lighting Designer: Kieron Johnson.
Sound Designer: Max Pappenheim.