Blink / Hitting Funny
The first was a reading of Ian Rowlands’ “Blink”, inspired by the scandal of a drama teacher who sexually abused huge numbers of youths in the South Wales Valleys over a number of years, and committed suicide before finally being sentenced (the same events which have led to a review of policy which recently resulted in moronic newspaper headlines about GCSE drama students being “banned” from kissing one another during productions “Romeo and Juliet”). Very perceptive in terms of the parental neglect which can lead to vulnerable young people being driven into the arms of potential abusers, and also in respect of the destructive long-term emotional impact of such abuse. Rowlands often shuns naturalism, so it was instructive to see him applying a poetic sensibility to such distressing events. A beautiful, disturbing piece of work.
The second was “Hitting Funny”, Phil Ralph’s one-man play, ostensibly about a stand-up comic, but really about the politics of entertainment in an age where audiences are (supposedly) unshockable. Inspired by Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks, its centrepiece is a riff on coprophilia, which has led to walkouts in more conservative venues. Having had an Edinburgh Festival run in 2005, the show runs slickly, and is very ably performed, but I was slightly worried that it seemed to fall into the category of works reflecting “confused liberal guilt in crisis”; if only because of my concern that confused liberalism might lead to apathetic post-liberalism, which might give way to utter illiberalism as happened in the late 1970s. Having had the chance the discuss the piece with him, though, along with other writers, he was gloriously unrepentant, having heard all the criticisms a million times before. Definitely worth seeing, anyway.