Maytrees sister having a spare ticket for the 1977 'Every Good Boy Deserves a Favour' revival at the National Theatre provided an unexpected treat for an otherwise gloomy winter Saturday afternoon. Sister doesn't stint with her theatre tickets either so first class seats near the front at the Olivier made for feeling part of the unfolding dramas perhaps more than my normal seats in the gods, would have done.
Genuinely nutty Julian Bleach is incarcerated in a 1970s style Soviet lunatic asylum. He believes that he is stalked by a whole orchestra which plays intermittently in his head at least though the asylum doctor in his white coat carries around a violin. Bleach makes himself part of the orchestra by hanging on to his musical instrument - a triangle - under his pillow. There is on the stage with him a whole orchestra which amidst clouds of fog frequently bursts into full sound. Violence in the musical scores is dramatically also reflected in fightiing or maybe that was intended to be dancing amongst the orchestra members. On one occasion a young male musician was plucked from his stand (a violinist?) and kicked in the face quite realistically. On other occasions young female musicians were hurled around the stage with much vigour and gusto and seemingly very brutishly. Adrian Schiller occupies the other asylum bed on the stage. He has been incarcerated by the Soviets because of his demonstrating against their regime. The son of one or other of them (I couldn't quite work out which) was wheeled in to try to effect a cure but to little avail.
Eventually a larger than life Russian General enters (stage left naturally) and asks the right questions of the wrong inmates to which Bleach answers by agreeing that the Soviets do not incarcerate sane people and Schiller confirms that he knows that he is not being stalked by an orchestra so the General declares them both cured and fit for release - cue for more fog music and chaos.
Hugely entertaining but serious thoughts on heading for the exits at the end were firstly, how although thankfully the Soviet era is now at an end, this play does indeed reflect much of the "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch" mood that I clearly recall prevailed in the Cold War era of the 1970s. Secondly and sadly, how many sane people today are being incarcerated in Iran for demonstrating against the regime in power there?
Many thanks to maytrees' little sister.