Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Five Wives of Maurice Pinder by Matt Charman, NT Cottesloe 18-Jun-2007 - Director: Sarah Frankcom

Someone is going to get hurt. Someone in Row A. Someone in a seat numbered between fifteen and twenty-something. I know this because I was in Row A and I saw the chips of masonry fly in the direction of those seats as the breeze-block wall was knocked down with a sledge hammer. OK I’m being overly dramatic but it was slightly unnerving to have a young man swinging a hammer within a few feet of where I sat.

I wondered if perhaps the designer hadn’t quite taken into account that there would need to be an audience sharing the same space as their transverse set. It did seem to take up most of the Cottesloe’s floor space. Also people in my row were turfed out during the interval so that stage hands could lay a concrete (concrete-effect on wooden board anyway) floor on part of the set [Insert slow builder joke here].

As the play got underway I sorted through what my nice liberal opinion of polygamy/polyandry should be. Basically I concluded that so long as it wasn’t abusive or fraudulent then it wasn’t worth complaining about. See, nice, liberal and just a bit glib. Actually I got the feeling that this is more or less what the author, Matt Charman, felt too, although he seems to have concluded that polygamy is always going to be abusive even if there’s no overt violence and little psychological bullying. There was only one outside character expressing moral outrage at the situation but he was driven in part by lust and wasn’t given a strong enough argument against Mister Pinder’s lifestyle. I’m not sure that I entirely bought the set up and maybe there was a more powerful play in the story of the introduction of the second wife rather than the introduction of the fourth and fifth ones. Also perhaps there would have been more tension if Maurice Pinder had been written as more charismatic and manipulative but then the situation would have felt almost ordinary which I think.was the author’s intention.

I felt the need to remind myself about Matt Charman’s first play A Night at the Dogs which I saw a couple of years ago (and which won the Verity Bargate award). I couldn’t remember whether the reviews of it had been positive or excited and my own recollection doesn’t go much beyond ‘interesting’ which is my usual unhelpful comment. I think I missed any common themes between the two plays. They both end, I reckon, with the optimistic possible future slightly outweighing the pessimistic one but in the case of Five Wives… I’m not sure that there was a strong sense that Pinder had learnt anything or changed. Perhaps that isn’t necessary and it probably wasn’t the intention; it’s just me wanting a bit more of a battle.

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