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Review: In the Republic of Happiness or the play I wanted to sleep through

In_the_republic_of_happiness_jpg_510x340_crop_upscale_q85I passed two women on my way to the loo after watching Martin Crimp's In The Republic of Happiness yesterday evening and overheard one saying to the other: "You were lucky, you fell asleep".

And for the first time in my theatre-going life, I have to say that I felt her jealousy.

I'd tried to fall asleep myself, yes I actually tried to fall asleep.

Stuck in the middle of the row it was my only means of escape from what was unfolding on stage.

The Royal Court's play for the festive period starts promisingly at a Christmas lunch where family members bicker and bitch.

Things then start going downhill with the sudden arrival of Uncle Bob (Paul Ready) who is bent on delivering a speech of vitriol and bile towards his extended family on behalf of his wife Madeleine (Michelle Terry) who has chosen to stay in the car.

It is nastiness that extends beyond anything realistic but can't even be framed in some sort of context.

On the back of the play text, it asks a series of questions one of which is "What is the meaning of his long and outrageous speech?"

You'd think there would be a hint of an answer but no. By the end, we have learnt nothing of Uncle Bob, Madeleine or hatred in the speech.

There are two good bits in the play: the two scene changes.

It all happens in full view, sets rise into the fly, other bits glide forward, decoration is removed by stage-hands, quite mesmerising.

The second act goes off in a different direction.

The actors take up position in a row of seats facing the audience and the first of what will be five topics is flashed up on a screen: The freedom to write the script of my own life.

The actors deliver one speech, randomly taking a line or two each.

They pick up on what the previous character has said, often repeating it or certain words and phrases.

It is quite abstract, repetitive and quickly becomes un-engaging and then just tedious. Very tedious. (Sans Taste has written part of his review in a similar style which is certainly worth a read).

Between each topic, there is a song. The less said about those the better.

It was into the second act that the boredom really started to set in and when sleep seemed like the best alternative.

When that failed (damn those loud songs) I resorted to biting my nails, then watching enviously as those who were able to leave did so and then eventually reading the actors biogs in the play text while occasionally checking progress to see how much more was left to go.

It was the only way Poly and I could determine how much more there was to endure. Yes, it was that bad.

Once we'd finished with the five topics during which there were snatches of stuff about personal freedom, body perception and lots of talk about vaginas, there was one more act to go.

The second spectacular scene change was followed by another abstract scene although this one did have Uncle Bob and Madeleine in it.

Like Act two it shed no light on the what had occurred in the first or maybe it did but by that stage, I was too busy imagining smashing up Martin Crimps computer with a sledgehammer so that he can't write any more.

In The Republic of Happiness felt long and was long, nearly two hours without an interval.

Had there been a midway comfort break you wouldn't have seen me for dust and I get the impression my thoughts were shared by quite a few others in the audience.

Maybe there is some genius in there that I have somehow missed but at the moment I'm still smarting by the fact that it is two hours of my life I'll never get back.

Shame really because it had a great cast.

It's booking until 19 January, I hope you like it more than I did if you go, some people did like it Ought To Be Clowns being one.

You can read @polyg's thoughts here.


Actually looked this up while I was 'watching' the play, Seline Hizli was in Appropriate Adult which starred Dominic West who of course appears alongside Mr W in The Hour.