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The Hairy Ape - The Old Vic

Apparently, a Spectator critic noted that some people walked out of the performance of The Hairy Ape at the Old Vic. I'm not sure why. Sure, it's tendentious - it's of its time; 1920s America. It's about 'Yank', a ship's stoker who doesn't like to think, and brands all attempts of workers to question their predicament as belonging to the Salvation Army! Whenever one of the Irish stokers - ageing and 'back breaking' stops to 'think', the group of oil-streaked topless stokers shout 'THINK! THINK! THINK!' 

Yank represents the futurists that would soon follow, admirable of anything that enables machinery, and speed. And he sees himself as an important enabler of the ship's movement and speed. But whilst he sees himself that way, the granddaughter of the ship's owner, who is escorted down to meet them as part of some sociological observation, does not. She, dressed in a silky white dressed, comes face to face with Yank and screams 'filthy beast'.  For a moment, Yank sees himself as 'they' see him, and he is full of rage and fury. It sets him on a course of futile seeking and self-destruction. 

The performance was about ninety minutes long, and there were times when I felt that I was sick of hearing Yank whining on and on... but it is as relevant today and the whole performance was very good. 

The stage design by Stewart Laing was clever, and the choreography by Aletta Collins was absolutely mesmerising. There's a point when Yank is stood on Fifth Avenue, and 'the rich' emerge from church - the women dressed in furs - and their beaus in suits and hats, to move across and around the stage, dismissive of Yank as though he were a mere insect in their way. It runs until 21 November. 

Plays on the horizon include Pinter's fantastic 'The Homecoming' and 'The Caretaker', and 'Wasp' - all at The Trafalgar. I would like to say there is something worth seeing at my 'local' - Chichester Festival Theatre - but there isn't. There's a trio of Chekhov - the staple fare of many a regional theatre, and that's about it.

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And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
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***


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