“Put an effigy of the Queen in a cup of tea and make him queue for it” was just one of the brilliantly created and deployed lines of the evening, this one referring to what it means to be British.
Racing Minds was a show split into two, the first act was titled ‘And now for something completely improvised’ building off of the incredibly influential Monty Python group. Here the group create a play as the hour goes on based around the key themes that were picked by the audience on the night. No two shows are ever the same.
Daniel Roberts dressed as a Butler proceeded to ask the audience for a name, place and title for today’s play – after being singled out I managed to come up with the top of the Eiffel Tower as the setting ; pleased, the Butler rewarded me with a worthers.
Watch this space.
The quartet then began the show: each of them trying to out-wit the other, whilst ensuring that there was a rough continuum and enough scope to continue through to the end, but jam-packed with laughs both on set and from the audience. The play progressed with many ingenious one-liners, stitch ups and altogether exceptional acting. “He was a murderous Rector. The Die-rector.”
After a brief interval, the quartet appeared refreshed, accompanied by two guest actors from the Maydays, Rebecca and Heather. The seven, including the very talented pianist who never missed a queue, performed a more casual set of improvisation; firstly based around the word ‘armadillo’ and then secondly ’bespoke’.
Racing Minds are brimming with talent ensuring each show is a guaranteed success and thrilling to watch. I cannot recommend them enough, they were truly one of the most exciting, enthusiastic group of actors to watch live – you really could see their brains ticking over how they would get out of difficult situations. Truly spectacular.
All I can say is that I am sure we have not heard the last of these guys.
Education and knowledge are always interesting points of discussion. Learning the right information just so that you will pass the exams at the end of the year, or knowing for the sake of knowing. It is sad that in the modern day schooling system that knowledge has become a necessity and not an enjoyment, even those who go on to read a subject at university normally only do so to further there career. Fast-track way to get a better job in theory…
This issue seemed to be at the heart of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, with the two different teachers Irwin and Hector. Hector taught his boys things that they enjoyed and that they would remember in their last days, poetry recitals, French plays and gobbets of information that could potentially be useful in an exam, but wouldn’t necessarily enable them to make the cut and pass the Oxford entry exam. Whereas Irwin has been specifically hired by the school to help the boys study what they will need to get into the prestigious university, he is their private tutor.
History nowadays is not a matter of conviction. It’s a performance. It’s entertainment. And if it isn’t, make it so.
This was one of the problems that was central to the progression of the play, the clash of old and new in the schooling system. Hector is there to teach the boys ‘General Studies’ things that should help them in later life, but in the current climate the boys have no need to waste time memorizing Thomas Hardy’s Drummer Hodge they want to get into Oxford or Cambridge and so they should be studying for those exams.
The play also questioned the extent to which pupils should have a relationship with their teachers – and I mean that in every sense of the word. The sexuality of both the teachers and the students are not only questioned but pushed to the very limits, which I found very interesting to read. In my school experiences I never saw a student openly ask a teacher on a date and yet it didn’t seem too odd that it could happen at this school set in 1980’s Sheffield.
“History is just one fucking thing after another”
Although the narrative jumped around and was in no-sense of the word linear, the flash-forwards and flash-backs because of the intertextual references make the setting believable. The play is set in the past, it is also set in the present day, it also talks about the past even further back than the 1980’s. This is a school where students learn, regardless of what they learn, the primary intention is the pursuit of knowledge. For me, it was this that helped the play really connect with me as a reader. Everyone has been in a classroom and it is a place that is safe, ok you may have to sit a horrific exam in there at some point, but nonetheless it is still a place where you can develop as a person. The characters in the play felt like real people. Real people who just want to do the best and the most they can with their lives.
I was sceptical at first about reading a translated play, purely because sometimes words are not translated correctly and the text can lose some of the fluidity that it would have in its natural language. Furthermore the choice of words and their meaning will differ between languages and so this can often cause the text to lose some of its depth.
However, The Visit for me gained depth because it had been translated, and helped to highlight the intention of Durrenmatt to create a universal setting. The play is set in the town of Guellen which is a run-down place after the Second World War. This comedy focuses on the lives of Alfred Ill and Claire Zachanassian and her ability to manipulate all those who love Ill with her power and wealth. Although intended to be a comedy the dark and often grotesque themes that run throughout make it appear more as a tragicomedy in my opinion.
The question about being able to buy justice is a very disturbing idea. Claire asks the townsfolk if she can buy herself justice after she was abandoned pregnant while Ill was able to create a proper life for him and his new family. Claire on the other hand was forced into prostitution and a life she would not have chosen for herself. When she returns to Guellen with substantial money and power she is able to dehumanize men as she pleases, castrate those who wronged her in the past and ultimately buying herself justice. The lack of active characters also leads the audience to question the role of the institutions in the town because they remain passive and highlight moneys ability to corrupt. The minor characters have been named by their profession: Schoolmaster, Butler, Mayor, Priest etc which shows both their unanimity and also their passivity.
Despite these heavy themes prevalent throughout the play, it is essentially intended to be a comedy. It is very funny. The rhyming of characters names Toby, Loby, Koby and Roby let the audience laugh in between the sinister outbursts. Claire’s treatment of her new husbands also offers a high point, with them being called Husband VI or Husband VII.
This play is great. The way Durrenmatt deals with these controversial but highly apparent issues of Women’s rights, Prostitution and overall the desire for money is so unique. I love his writing style because it is both tragic and comedic simultaneously without making the audience feel like they are watching a tennis match.
I highly recommend this play, particularly to anybody who has delved into the world of translated texts. Or even if they have not read anything that was written by a less famous playwright. This play is not to be missed.