Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Fri 31st Mar, 2006

Salt - a play about food.

I don't think I'm cut out as a viewer of modern theatre.

It's not the fault of the theatre itself, which tries new things, experiments with form and dialogue and material and so forth, to convey new ideas and challenge us in our coseted beliefs. But there's a part of me that just wants a good old Oscar Wilde play, or an Agatha Christie murder mystery. Yes, something with no subtlety whatsoever, where you don't have to labour over the meaning of everything because everything is imbued with meaning. And I call myself an intellectual.

Salt is a play about people's reactions to food and their relationships based on the sensual pleasures of eating, smelling, and cooking. It also deals with the topics of people going senile, relationships breaking up, and historical attitudes. It pulls together two very different characters: Megan, who doesn't think of herself as a 'food nazi' but grinds her own cinnamon in her own mortar and pestle, and her mother Laurel, whose idea of gourmet meals is to add a can of cream of corn to a bag of frozen potatos, throw some pre-grated cheese over it and bake it. In between these characters floats "the man", a person who transforms from Megan's ex- partner to her lover to Laurel's dad to an anonymous quoter of cookery books.

Half of my problem is that the whole play doesn't seem to talk about anything directly. I know this is a property of modern theatre, to which I refer my reader to my first sentence, and I suppose that at least with this play you can say that there is an explanation of what's gone on and why most things have occurred. But the beginning, where Megan and Laurel speak independently yet as if in a conversation, where there's not one but two 'other halves' of the conversation not being filled in at all, just started me on the wrong foot. Given that I was never going to be a fan of Laurel, whose disregard for her own daughter borders on spiteful sometimes and whose wilful rewriting of history in her own head to justify her own ideas causes more grief for others and, ultimately, herself, it was never really going to get better. But I did get through it.

I also find it challenging to face a person deliberately acting like a delusional seventy-year-old, when my father is increasingly struggling with everyday things that seem simple to me. Again, I have no problem acknowledging that it occurs. But on the one hand I find it hard to take that someone can be deliberately acting that way, like Ruth Cracknell's character in Mother and Son; and on the other I don't need another reminder that things could get so much worse. I have enough of a vivid imagination of what the future might hold, and I don't want to see another situation that I can't either rationally solve or escape from.

Not much of a play review, really. Still, the rest of the season at the Street Theatre (which Kate got a subscription to) includes Q.E.D., a play about the life of Richard Feynman, and Political Animals, another Shortis and Simpson affair which, if the last one was anything to go by, will be both musical and comic. Can't go wrong with that.

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