Nov 23, 2006

Drunk Enough to Say I Love You at the Royal Court

Before I left for the brutal north I had a chance to see Caryl Churchill's Drunk Enough to Say I Love You with Ben Yeoh (a stupidly talented man who I hope to be seeing a lot more of in the future), amongst others - his more coherent and well informed opinions on the piece can be found over here, for those who like that sort of thing...

As for me, I was tantalised more than I was impressed. There were hints of the greatness in there that make Churchill the most important British playwright alive to day (Pinter can shove it up his Krapp-hole).

The play's a two hander about the US-UK 'special relationship' played out as a gay romance in which (union) Jack will do anything for (uncle) Sam. At its best the play toys beautifully with the surreal synthesis of the political and the personal as the lovers flirt, fight and fondle over points of international diplomacy (who to invade, who to support). The names of enemy combatants (North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq) are flippantly tossed out as the couple nuzzle on the sofa and Vietnam, Kyoto and 911 are handled like lovers tiffs - that time you got drunk and kissed someone else, or the fact that you never put the lid on the toothpaste.

In so doing Churchill begins to conjure the absurdity of a world in which tabloid newspapers split every double page evenly between politics and celebrity gossip. Is it any surprise within such an environment that our relationship with the US is as schizophrenic as it is, aghast as we watch their actions on the news, then laughing along with Friends or Frasier as it comes on afterwards. Appalled by Guantanamo Bay but still taking our children to Disneyworld on Holliday.

America is the most dangerous, aggresive, powerful country in the world and yet still attempts to perceive itself as the home of freedom, innocence and the sit-com. It is this absurd dichotomy that Churchill seems to suggest, allows us to perceive the UK's 'special relationship' with the US within the personal narrative of a relationship (with undertones of the homosexual) between Bush and Blair.

It is when this schizophrenia is at its most absurd that the play really chimes. As Sam refuses to budge on Kyoto protocols only to cattily demand that Jack put his cigarette out. The laughter in the auditorium was as hollow and ironic as you will find.

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