Monday, July 02, 2007

Oh shut up already (The Pain and the Itch - Royal Court Downstairs)

I don't think I've been to the theatre laughed so much and still come away feeling disappointed that this evening. Bruce Norris' The Pain and the Itch seems to have everything going for it, a stellar cast headed Matthew McFadyen who are on top of their game, an easy target in America's uptight not so liberal east coast Liberals and some really great laugh lines. But yet this drags. Even with the Court's plush upholstered seats my backside was starting to get numb by the middle of the second act and its total running time is under two and a half hours including an interval.

The problem is that Norris' approach to picking targets is so scatter gun that he only skims the surface of them, whether it be liberal hypocrisy, post 9-11 racism, or the hysteria over paedophilia. This leaves his characters adrift in a world of cliché and caricature (even as he accurately lampoons the middle class liberal habit of reducing emotions to the clichés of therapy culture).

Still its a production with many redeeming features. McFadyen wrings all there is to out of the grown up adolescent Clay struggling to be the perfect stay at home dad, whilst Peter Sullivan gets all the best lines as his cynical plastic surgeon brother.


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