No Man’s Land

24 Nov

One of the characters asks “Does Art make us virtuous?”  The play answers “No.” Clearly.

At least three of the four characters have claims to being literary men, but Art has not helped them. They bully, they threaten, they ignore; they are not good. [Though they are certainly engaging, and wonderfully played by Andrew Buchanan, Peter Carroll, John Gaden and Steven Rooke.]

It’s not the ‘virtuous’ in “Does Art make us virtuous?” that Pinter is exploring. It is the ‘us’.

No Man’s Land is about continuity in character. Its argument is that we’re not all of a piece. Who we are depends on who we are with. Character is fluid. It is formed by power relations.

Once Pinter was asked by an actor about the back history of  a character.  He replied, ‘Mind your own fucking business!’ Not that the past is unimportant. It is – vitally – but as an extension of the battleground that is the present.

This present is dismaying, but oddly uplifting. For if character is not fixed – and Michael Gow leads his extraordinary ensemble through a tour de force of possibilities – than the future could be a different place than both the disputed past and the menacing present.

 The play begins with the down and out Spooner [Peter Carroll] telling Hirst [John Gaden]  “You are too kind.” He repeats it, several times. It remains a lie.

Pinter’s work will not make us any kinder. No Art will. But No Man’s Land reminds us that it’s an option.

 Veronica Kaye

 

No Man’s Land

Sydney Theatre Company, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House

Until 11/12

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