Book of Days

16 Jul

There’s a powerful set piece in the first act of Book of Days. I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say it deals with the way the announcement of a death is received. Beautifully staged and cleverly written, it perfectly presents the predominant theme of the play – hypocrisy.

Langford Wilson’s play is sort of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, but with murder. (It’s not an appropriation. It’s definitely a subversion.)

Both plays are set in small Midwest towns.

Photograph © Bob Seary

Photograph © Bob Seary

Ultimately, Our Town presents small town life through the lens of the eternal; its mocking of the parochial is gentle to the extreme, and the play firmly asserts the value of the everyday, and of every life.

Book of Days offers a vision far less comforting. There are some seriously bad people in this play – and they’re respected members of the community.

Some audience members might find the second act unusual, undecided about the way the play becomes somewhat smaller, folding down to a whodunit.

But I think that’s the play’s purpose. It’s part of the American culture wars. It’s saying ‘What’s wrong with our simple dream?’ And it finds guilty parties.

Elsie Edgerton-Till’s production is terrific and her use of the space is magical. The performances are sensational. Kate Fraser creates a brilliantly engaging Ruth Hoch, the salt of the earth no-nonsense truth teller. The conceit of this play is that Ruth is playing Joan of Arc in George Bernard Shaw’s play. And like Joan, Ruth fights both Church and State. I’d further draw the contrasts and comparisons between Ruth and Joan, but I’d be guilty of dreadful spoilers.

In this play, there are characters guilty of far worse: Kyle Walmsley gives a chilling portrait of the intelligent, urbane and frighteningly calculating Reverend Bobby Graves. Simon Davey creates a marvelous portrait of a manipulative snake of a politician.

And a final word on Georgia Hopkins set design: a beautifully space to play, clean and pure, punctuated by only a single tree. The Garden of Eden? The Tree of Knowledge? The Fall from Paradise?

Veronica Kaye

Book of Days by Lanford Wilson

til 9 August

http://newtheatre.org.au/

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: