Friday, October 15, 2010

Gate Theatre, ‘Boston Marriage’: Speaking Mamet

Seeing that I’m currently working on a production of David Mamet’s Oleanna for Galway Theatre Festival (PLUG), I went to see Boston Marriage in The Gate. A brief review just as soon as I achieve enlightenment …

In this year’s Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival the Gate is housing a series of plays entitled ‘The Relish of Language’ which celebrates the work of playwrights such as Beckett or Pinter who revolutionised the use of language in playwriting. Mamet’s Boston Marriage fits snugly into such festivities.

Those familiar with the play will know it for the monumental verbal soiree that it is. Contemporary constructions of comedy (innuendo in particular) are imbued into the nineteenth century tradition of Victorian drawing room drama, and the result is fireworks. When the fortunes of high class heroines Anna and Claire are at stake, they use their arts of philosophy and adultery to save them. They tend to their crisis (which involves an underage object of desire, an expensive necklace, and a séance) with a profusion of reason required of a divine crossword. Dealings and predictions are meticulously composed by each woman’s right of wit and negligence of neurosis. This makes Boston Marriage impossibly clever and highly entertaining.

David Mamet, more so than other contemporary playwrights, has written at length about his own approach to performance. His artistic ethos is that actors don’t dawdle: they know their lines, they know their blocking, and they execute them. Delivering Mametian dialogue is always an experience, as he has a way with words that makes the performer very conscious of them. His scripts are so littered with interruptions and ellipses that it’s hard to know when to take a break. Thus, Mamet’s plays tend to be delivered in either one of two ways: lightening fast or meditatively slow. In this production, director Aoife Spillane-Hinks has gone for the fast lane. She has sharpened the deliveries of her charming cast to such a polish that a carousel-pace Boston Marriage is hard to fathom. This artifice of poesy seems to work best with a dizzy.

What did everybody else think?  

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