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Review + Production photos: Verbal punch up in One Night In Miami, Donmar Warehouse

Review: Relentless and bitter - Lunch and The Bow of Ulysses, Trafalgar Studios 2

Lunch-and-The-Bow-of-Ulysses-10352This Steven Berkoff double bill has been given a mixture of 3, 4 and one 5 star reviews from the critics. I'm going to opt for the lower end, in fact to be brutally honest and up front: I didn't like it.

Now there is no doubt that Berkoff is a skilled and imaginative writer but these two short plays about the start and end of a relationship are so relentlessly joyless I couldn't help worrying for his state of mind when he wrote them: Had he been through a really acrimonious split? Don't get me wrong, I'm not adverse to sad or bleak stories but I like to care - about something - and here I didn't. Not even a little bit.

Lunch starts with a woman (Emily Bruni) sitting on a seafront bench. She is noticed by a man (Shaun Dooley) who plucks up the courage to talk to her. This bit I enjoyed as we get his thoughts contrasting with his actions - confident vs bumbling and shy. They are obviously both lonely but his behaviour and language quickly turns aggressive and sexual. Berkoff doesn't use natural dialogue instead he writes in poetic metaphors and similes and that is part of the problem, it gets denser and stodgier the longer it goes on. The lunch ends in a brief Punch and Judy show.   

The Bow of Ulysses has the man and woman sat on the bench. They remain static swapping long monologues about their relationship. To sum it up he blames her for wasting the best years of his life and she believes she kept him going. There is a bitter resentfulness to the man's words and the woman just seems to lack emotion. I'm putting my hand up now and admitting that I got bored and I switched off and spent most of the time trying to see the time on the watch of the woman next to me.

Perhaps I'm old fashioned in wanting a little bit of narrative and drama from theatre although I certainly don't count myself as a traditionalist. Lunch and the Bow of Ulysses wasn't for me and I'm giving it one star. It also wasn't quite the thing for the couple sat behind me who huffed and puffed throughout and were off like a shot the first opportunity they got but some people seemed to have liked it.

It runs until Nov 5 at Trafalgar Studios 2 and is 90 minutes without an interval.


I've only seen one other Steven Berkoff play - Six Actors In Search of a Director - which I described at the time as the dullest play I'd ever seen so maybe his work just isn't for me.