Friday, April 09, 2010

I always thought Alan Bennett's forte was tracking the underbelly of ordinary life and laying bare the subtext of trivial conversations - humour with compassion, rather than macabre farce. Enjoy, arriving at the Theatre Royal Bath from the West End, disabused me of that notion. It's been hailed as a lost gem, a prescient, blackly comic modern classic, but I realised I wasn't going to do as instructed by the title from the opening word. ('Sweden', if you were wondering, repeated several times because of Connie's dementia, though it turned out it was really Swindon anyway. Oh the hilarity.) For all the sniggering at senility and penises, this is a dark story of abuse, betrayal and denial as observed by a transgendered son returning to spy on his dysfunctional family. "A writer has to use whatever is to hand in the way of experience" Alan Bennett has said, "You don't put yourself into what you write - you find yourself there."

Over at the Alma Tavern, The Game of Love by Mark Seaman also reaches into marital failure and incest. It's another ironic title: Carol is a sex worker and has asked lonely Tony to stay and talk only as protection against her loitering pimp. The life stories they unfold slowly over instant coffee are plausible but unremittingly sad, and the decision to set this case-study in 1967 was never fully clarified or explored.

Out in the real-time world, there's burgeoning and bird-songing and budding occurring as spring finally gushes in like a great severed artery of sunlight, spilling lascivious blossom and optimism everywhere. These are days for walks and cycle rides, and about time too. The next Poetry Cafe theme is Wild in the Country, with marvellous nature-celebratory poet Rose Flint leading the revels on 5th May.

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