Daily Archives: April 2, 2009

Gethsemane: power, politics and piety pack a punch

Brighton Theatre Royal: Gethsemane by David Hare

Trenchant, clever writing with lines to relish, powerhouse performances from a quality cast, a striking and creative set – there was so much to enjoy about David Hare’s Gethsemane last night. And yet …

It was hard to put my finger on exactly what it was about Gethsemane that left me less  thoughtful than I expected. Hare’s insightful, at times scathing writing exposes the seamy underbelly of politics in today’s Britain – spin, management, damage limitation, hypocrisy and media manipulation.

Tamsin Greig is superb as the harrassed Home Secretary Meredith Guest – a mother who loves her wayward daughter Suzette (well portrayed by newcomer Jessica Raine) but is married to her job; agonising over her entry into politics to “make a difference” and despairing that “they hate us whatever we do”. Micro-managed by civil servant fixer Monique Toussaint (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), she is pulled deeper into trouble by her rebellious daughter’s attempts to get herself noticed.

Shady money man Otto Fallon (Stanley Townsend) is the cheeky chappy sifting everyone’s motives and finding them wanting, recruiting naive Whitehall greasy pole climber Mike Drysdale to his “fund-raising” operation, but failing to convince his pricipled wife Lori (Nicola Walker). Supported by suave assistant Frank Pegg (Pip Carter), he calls the tune that all but Lori must dance to.

Anthony Calf is Prime Minister Alec Beasley, sketched very strongly as Tony Blair with just a few details changed (he bashes away at a drum kit instead of the Blair Stratocaster) and talks firmly if vaguely about his religious faith.

Adam James revels in his role as Geoff Benzine, the Fleet Street hack preparing to break the story of the Home Secretary’s daughter’s shameful secret. When Meredith calls in Lori – Suzette’s former teacher and mentor – to try to straighten her out, the emotional depth of Hare’s writing starts to tell.

At times, it’s very funny, and there are some great lines:
“There’s only one safe place for a politician to live and that’s in ignorance …”
“It’s an organised hypocrisy and it’s called democracy …”
“The more sceptical the people become, the more devout are their leaders.”
“When journalists write about themselves, they finally write about someone they admire.”

Tamsin Greig’s opening to the second half, where she addresses the audience on the terrorist threat, outlining everything that she can’t tell us, and concluding “Sorry, but you’ll just have to trust us” is priceless. And the scene between her and the PM soon after is superbly played.

As for Gethsemane, referred to on a couple of occasions as “the dark night of the soul” – with many of the characters having wrestled with their callings and plans, is finally pinpointed as Suzette admonishes Lori “Jesus didn’t give up – you’ve missed the whole point of the story”.

Maybe the slight lack of engagement I felt at the end was down to the fact that none of the characters really attracted my sympathies – all were flawed but seemed trapped by the system. I won’t spoilt it by revealing the final scene, but a larger dose of hope would have helped. Human beings may be flawed, but not all are doomed to corruption and compromise – the redemption that lay beyond Gethsemane was only hinted at.

And these days, we can really do with being reminded of Easter too.

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The Tweets of Brandon Cummerbund

Cummerbundery – or the first month’s witterings from CummerbundEsq

Good morrow gentlemen and ladies, it is my delight to join you in this brave

Brandon Cummerbund: sage, gargler, wit and gastronome

Brandon Cummerbund: sage, gargler, wit and gastronome

odyssey. I shall be furnishing you with Cummerbundery daily …

Toast has its uses in hand to hand combat. Chum of mine: Mangrove van Flagbutterer – well meaning Dutch philanthropist. Breakfast: kedgeree

Just stalked some asparagus with me blunderbuss. Winged the blighter. The old rugger injury playing up. Mrs Cummerbund promises fig poultice

Bats in the cellar again. Sent Little Shitzu in. Chum of mine: Nodulous Quango-Chainsaw, mad as a tweed sandwich. Breakfast: anchovy mash

Shaver caught me beard this morning. Sacked the blighter, y’just can’t get the staff. Chum of mine: Leggy Tonguebuttress. Breakfast: kidneys

Gad, the shrapnel’s giving me gip. Could be the turbot from lunch, mind. Must grill the cook. Try Silly Me in the 2.30 at Kempton Park.

Locked in the scullery again by Mrs C. Dashed if I can work her out. Chum of mine: Tingling Parp, trombone for hire. Breakfast: poached egg

Discovered fishing rod and large brandy uneasy companions. Suffice to say no charges being pressed. Took mashie niblick to get slice repair

Practiced me gargling this morning. Improving. Chum of mine: toff conman Lord Quicksand Stuntly. Breakfast: porridge and glazed walnuts

Discovered butterscotch has little to do with a slab of Irish best and a bottle of Glenfiddich. Pity. Flutter: Arbroath 4 Forfar 5. Tea: cod

Cummerbund’s patent sleep recipe: two olives, a pickle, oats and a ding on the back of the head with a bedpan. Sheep counted: 97. Baah!

Soup of the day: Mulligatawney. Today’s limerick: There was a young fella called Bob. In the laundry: spats. Chum of mine: Wokwok Tahoomey

Fell asleep in stamp collection last night. Woke in small hours with Penny Red stuck to nose. Today’s poet: Milton. Breakfast: liver & bacon

Lost shirt on a horse today. Bally thing had hidden in the wardrobe. Considering buying tandem. Or a mongoose. Lucky cravat: paisley, silk

Constitutional amidst wheeling seagulls post-lunch. Kiteflyers on greensward have wheels attached. Most peculiar. Hat: straw. Shoes: brogues

Coal scuttle full of owls this morning. Must reprimand coal man. Fog outside, possible pea-souper. Today’s socks: Wolseley. Breakfast: bran

Jalope behaves itself as soon as stout mechanic looks at it. Typical. Can’t find cigar cutter. Must be his day off. Potato: Maris Piper

Aged aunt coming to stay. Attempts to book holiday in Folkestone have failed. Mongoose acquired, named Wilf. Cheese: Red Leicester. Tea: hot

Boots back from menders. Mrs C back from Boots. Valet gone to sea. Everything else tickety boo. Chum of mine: Abstemious Grout. Tea: saveloy

Practiced with Indian clubs in the conservatory. Hodgson says glazier can fix panes tomorrow. First rabbit of spring delicious in stew m’lud

The reviving qualities of cucumber dare not be underestimated. Chum of mine: Muggely Pooterstick, itinerant sweep. Breakfast: fruit compost

Quail in the attic or cower in the cellar? Hard choice. In for the laundry: garters. Chum of mine: seaside gangster Arividerci Clacton. Pah!

Need to get gardener in to trim the hollyhocks. Horse left compost in wrong place (still steaming). Lost fiver. Practiced tenor. Sneezed x 3

Taking aunt to Hampton Court. Plan to lose ‘er in maze. Need to stalk deer but have lost deerstalker. Coffee: Camp. Breakfast: bubble n sqwk

Hampton Court called to say have located aunt. Had to send chum with tranquiliser gun. Where can you buy decent tongs these days? Supper:egg

Mrs C birthday. Children constructing wobbly jelly for the entertainment later. Polished me blunderbuss. Fed the aunt. Breakfast: pancakes

Splendid day of sterling hymns, Far Eastern nourishment and seaside perambulation. Chum of mine: Glazeme Senseless. Cake of day: Battenberg

MPs’ expenses brouhaha. Have to get mine past Mrs C. Not easy. Aunt escapes via catflap, recaptured by paperboy. Breakfast: lobster fritters

Time waits for no man. The No 37 sometimes does. Aunt escapes in flat cap. Next door’s sheepdog brings her in. Dessert song: Eton trifles

O sole mio!! Except in Grimsby. Bats in the wardrobe this morning. Cricket bats. Linseed oil on order. Chum of mine: Moo Flip. Brekkie: Pate

Shooting stick went off in the pantry. Cook needed smelling salts. Played water polo at the baths. Damn mints hard to catch. Breakfast: bran

Dog escaped with leg of lamb. Aunt escaped with wobbly jelly. Mrs C wrote sonnet. Arividerci left contraband cornets. Late supper: chops

Discovered unusual crease in plus fours. Son says I’m losing my edge. Cheeky scamp. Off to polish cufflinks. Spread: gentlemen’s relish

Aunt sent back to Little Wotherington, guarded by gardener with toasting fork. Toaster back off holiday now using gardening fork. Tea: Egray

Terrible wind yesterday. Pedestrians walking sideways. Definitely better in than out. Marmalade of the day: Chivers Olde English. Muffins.

Fusty Montgomery borrowed putter. Twigs in the marmalade. Mrs C went shopping. Staff nervous. Eggs overcooked. Monkey of the day: gibbon.

I left my heart at Clapham Junction. It was in a small paper bag, along with a sausage roll. Kindly return it if you find it. Breakfast: egg

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