You would be too, if you'd managed to cover 5 countries in about as many weeks and drink your weight in Strongbow in the process. Legitimate updates soon, but for now, here's a review of a play I wrote for my British Theatre class.
We are being watched. Constantly, persistently – twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. You are being watched, and what’s more, you know it. That’s why you chose to wear that particular shirt today, why you decided to wear your hair up instead of down, why you grabbed the blue umbrella instead of the green. Other people are always watching, judging, and evaluating, and receive the very same treatment from you. Such is the nature of our day-to-day life, but imagine for a moment, if you can, those who observe silently – the security guard, the plainclothes cop, the pickpocket, the shadowy figure lurking just beyond the next corner. Not all those who observe harbor malicious intent, and may in fact be quite benign, but the very notion that a pair of unseen eyes is following your every move makes for an unsettling feeling at the very least. Alan Beckett’s absurdist nightmare deals with that very feeling – that shiver down the spine and prickle on the back of your arms that tells you that someone’s eyes are upon you, and they do not have your best interests in mind at all.
Enjoy is a piece of theatre that demands attention – there is simply too much going on for a casual theatergoer to stomach without giving into the urge to plunge into its deeper meanings. Equal parts comical, puzzling, endearing, disturbing, and heartbreakingly sad, Enjoy follows a day in the life of Mam & Dad – Connie and Wilf Craven, the world-worn residents of one of Leeds’ last back-to-backs. The play revolves around the unexpected intrusion of a silent, well-dressed stranger called Ms. Craig, whose entrance into their messily monotonous life unlocks a chain of events that twists and turns them straight out of their comfort zones and smack dab into bedlam.
For one thing, Ms. Craig is not only a “sociologist,” ostensibly sent by the council to observe the Cravens’ way of life; she’s actually a man in drag – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ms. Craig’s cross-dressing actually seems rather mundane, after one sees how Enjoy’s story unfolds. Richard Glaves’ icy portrayal of the old folks’ mysterious visitor borders on the clinical, underpinned by a sometimes comic, sometimes disturbing aura of vague menace and glimmers of genuine emotion that shine through during his scenes with the Cravens. David Troughton’s Wilf (whom Connie refers to as “Dad”) is a cantankerous old fusspot with a host of semi-imagined health problems, a penchant for girlie mags, and a massive soft spot for his acid-tongued daughter, played to a side-splitting tee by a heavily-rouged Josie Walker. Mam (or Connie, as everyone but her husband refers to her) is a gentle soul, a tragic character in her own right, and is the most human out of all of them. Cheerfully suffering from the early stages of Alzheimers’ and muddling along as best she can, Mam flutters about like a flustered old hen and tries her hardest to convince their posh-looking visitor that her dysfunctional family is something close to normal - that the increasingly-bizarre events of the day don’t represent what her family is “really” like. She’s forever rearranging the pillows and trailing off into silence as she struggles to retain both her memories and her grasp on reality. A revolving cast of supporting characters comes and goes, but the main focus is on Mam and Dad, their stale marriage, and their interactions with their silent observer, for whom they put on (inadvertently or otherwise) an act. After all, Big Brother is watching.
As previously mentioned, Enjoy takes place in Leeds, entirely inside one of the last back-to-backs in town. Its residents cling to the idea of their upcoming move into a modern facility (with non-slip vinyl flooring!) and express mild bewilderment over the council’s interest in their day-to-day lives. A lovingly constructed model house, complete with tiny kitchen, winding stairs, and ratty sofas, comprises the set; shades of beige and gray clothe the stage and its denizens, with the exception of daughter Linda’s garish getups. Enjoy dances with the devil on several occasions, bringing the taboo subjects of homosexuality, incest, prostitution, and death into play and boldly challenging the audience to ask themselves what they would do when faced with these situations. Enjoy reminds us that all the world’s a stage, and that we are all being watched. How we choose to act is entirely up to us.