We went to three shows on the weekend.
Stewart Lee at Leicester Square theatre. Stewart Lee’s new show is hilarious. Not uniformly so, one gag went on for far too long, but gee whiz he sets a high standard. And as he said, we bought tickets for his experiments for a new TV show. He was within his rights to lie with his back to us farting for the entirety. And I dare say that would have been fairly amusing too.
Oresteia at Trafalgar Studios. There are two major productions of this going on at once in London. One is at The Globe. The other is an Almeida show, originally on in Islington, but moved to Trafalgar Studios, a new venue for me. I stand corrected in thinking that the new MTC playhouse has the stingiest legspace imaginable. This space could actually be worse. At least, however, Trafalgar is a small theatre in the first place. The MTC is enormous and should know better.
As for the show, I was a little disappointed, finding it cold and rather inaccessible with no chance to sympathise, let alone empathise with any of the characters. On top of this, Electra mysteriously disappears at some point. I have yet to come to the bottom of that.
Horniman’s Choice at Finborough Theatre. It was going to see this that confirmed my suspicions about Oresteia. I guess all theatre that came after Orestea took its cue from it. Here we have some of the same themes explored, but in a starkly different context. Orestea is a tragedy – that is to say, it is about kings. Horniman’s Choice is life in the poor North of England. It’s about the mines, soldiers coming back from WWI and the terrible choices faced by women: the workhouse if old, the streets if young. It’s about God.
I should say ‘they’re’ not ‘it’s’ since this is a collection of one act plays. Bloody brilliant they were too. The Finborough is a teensy theatre up a rickety staircase above a pub. It boasts on its site that these are the first professional UK productions of these plays for more than 90 years. The result is outstanding and one wonders, not for the first time, how much theatre that is utterly deserving never sees the light of day past its debut. Oresteia had three and a half hours to draw me in and failed. These intense miniatures grip from the start. I dare say I wasn’t the only one who had tears starting now and then, really an achievement to go from stranger to that in a few minutes.