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A CurtainUp London Review
I spent the first half wondering why I found Romance so trite and unfunny. In the interval I was reminded that Mamet often uses the first act (which can be tedious) to set up a blistering and exciting finale. At the end of the play my disenchantment had not been ameliorated. What could explain the lack of engagement? Were the largely British cast unable to play it as the pace required for New York lawyers? Was there some underlying satire that I just did not get? In Britain where judges are not elected, and until recently, did not have a retirement age, we are used to the eccentric and often terrible miscarriages of justice when a barmy judge is losing his marbles. But what is funny about this?
I detest the excesses of political correctness which so restrict our language but at the same time I understand why political correctness has emerged: it is to protect individuals from stereotyping and prejudice. So what is particularly funny about the Jewish defendant bewailing that everything has gone wrong for him and his attorney saying, "Well everything was going fine until you killed Christ!"?
Lindsay Posner has had some success directing Mamet in London, notably with Sexual Peversity in Chicago and Oleanna and to a lesser extent with A Life in the Theatre. I doubt that if Romance had been written by a lesser playwright that it would have found a theatre and certainly not one as prestigious as the Almeida.
Colin Stinton did his best as the defence attorney to use some of the grand sounding and high flowing rhetoric with his proposition that his chiropractitioner client has the answer to peace in the Middle East. He did sound like a pretentious television commentator of the type rolled out for state funerals. Nick Woodeson as the prosecutor was bemused at his private life invading the courtroom in the person of Paul Ready as Bernard, his young, vulnerable gay friend. But John Mahoney's lovely personality shines through making us wish he may find a more deserving part for his gentle humour.
For a differnent cast and production-- leading to quite a different reaction, check out our review of the play in New York.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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