Friday, 23 February 1990


Paul Anderson, review of My Heart’s a Suitcase by Clare McIntyre (Royal Court), Tribune, 23 February 1990

My Heart's a Suitcase is about fear and greed. Two women in their early thirties, Chris (Frances Barber) and Hannah (Sylvestre le Touzel), mates from university, arrive in a run-down flat in Brighton for a weekend. The flat belongs to Colin, once Chris's boyfriend; now a businessman, he frequents the restaurant where she is a waitress.

Chris, recently badly scared by a young man who pulled a gun on her in a railway carriage, is neurotic and restless. She wants more cash but hates the rich. Hannah doesn't care about money: she works as a ceramics teacher, lives in a housing association flat, and keeps a stiff upper lip about her multiple sclerosis.

The play is a brilliantly written comparison of the women, with four other characters in small roles. Two of these are naturalistic – a tramp (Fred Pearson), who has been dossing in the flat, and Tunis, Colin's wife from Greece, who turns up to do some serious shopping (an excellent cameo from Anna Patrick). The other two are imaginary figures. The man from the train periodically appears to plague Chris, and for much of the play Luggage, a female patron saint of coping, sits on the stage, occasionally making conversation or carrying bags for the others.

Luggage is unnecessary and intrusive, and there are times when the pace of the play flags disappointingly. But otherwise this exploration of how we respond to a hostile society should do much to reinforce Mclntyre's reputation as an original talent. It should also advance the careers of Barber and le Touzel, both of whom are superb. In short, catch it if you can.


Paul Anderson, review of Jon E Lewis (ed), Red Handed (Allison and Busby, £11.95), Tribune

"Most fictional crime is about the establishment defending society as it is," writes Jon E Lewis in his introduction to Red Handed, "but there is an alternative tradition which uses the crime story not as a blunt instrument of reaction but as a means of probing and exposing the injustices of society." This anthology of short stories is an introduction to that alternative tradition, and very good it is too. Lewis has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre – as readers of his regular column in Tribune already know – and he has chosen his examples of radical crime writing with great skill and taste.

The oldest story here is Jack London's allegory of class society, "To Kill a Man", first published in 1913; the most recent are unpublished pieces from Joan Smith, the British feminist novelist, and Gordon DeMarco, who contributes a short adventure of the left-wing San Francisco private eye, Riley Kovachs.

There's a chilling story of domestic violence from Chester Himes, the black American novelist, which manages in four pages what lesser writers often take a book to fail to achieve. A similarly brief tale of racial murder from William E. Chambers, another American, is almost as good.

But my favourite has got to be Karen Wilson's of as a Pistol", with its Californian private-eye narrator Wiggins, in the Marlowe mould: "She was in my arms before I could say 'Mary Astor'. Her hot slender fingers caressed the back of my neck. I felt flushed, the blood pounding in my head, as Beverly pulled me toward her. That kiss sealed my fate." The key difference is that Wiggins is no macho tough, guy. She's a lesbian.

Friday, 16 February 1990


Paul Anderson, review of Racing Demon by David Hare (National, Cottesloe), Tribune, 16 February 1990

The state of the Church of England, torn apart by faction fighting as its congregations dwindle, might seem a strange subject for a playwright of the left.

But that is what David Hare explores, with mixed results, in his latest play. The focus of Racing Demon is a four-priest team in a poor part of south London. The senior priest, the Reverend Lionel Espy (Oliver Ford Davies), is a sceptical liberal who preaches against government policy to a congregation that includes a cabinet minister. The conservative Bishop of Southwark (Richard Pasco) wants him sacked, but is opposed by two of Lionel's colleagues, the Reverend Donald "Streaky" Bacon (David Bamber as a cycle-clipped, bespectacled eccentric) and the Reverend Harry Henderson (Michael Bryant as a dignified, Cambridge-educated closet homosexual). The fourth member of the team, the Reverend Tony Ferris (Adam Kotz) turns against Lionel after being "born again" as an evangelical fundamentalist.

Lionel's fate is sealed after Southwark's number two, the Bishop of Kingston (Malcolm Sinclair), reneges on a long-standing promise that his job is secure. Finally, to cap everything, Harry's homosexuality is exposed in a Sunday newspaper and he resigns his post.

The polite civil war in the C of E, with Anglo-Catholic conservatives forging an unlikely affiance with evangelical fundamentalists against liberals and theological revisionists, is well observed: the sense of an institution in terminal decline is inescapable.

Hare's writing is witty, the acting excellent,and Richard Eyre's direction supremely competent But Hare never really makes the case for taking his protagonists' predicaments seriously. If you don't already care what happens to the Church of England, Racing Demon won't change your mind: you'll find it, as I did, rather akin to an elegantly structured and executed dispute about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.


Paul Anderson, review of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (RSC, Barbican), Tribune, 16 February 1990

Anthony Burgess has made the mistake of turning his satirical novella, A Clockwork Orange, into a stage play, and the Royal Shakespeare Company has made the mistake of putting it on.

It is a third-rate play in a fourth-rate production, which adds a happy ending to Stanley Kubrick's film version but loses all its shocking power. The ultraviolence of Alex and his droogs is laughable rather than threatening, the brainwashing to which he is subject utterly unconvincing, and the moral of the story – that violence is kids' stuff – simply crass.

The set is of course very flash, and the cast make the best they can of the miserable material they have been given – but it really isn't enough. A Clockwork Orange is tedious and wholly lacking in dramatic trension. It ought to go the way of Carrie. It won't, largely because it is sold out for its entire run on the strength of the cult reputation of Kubrick's film (not seen in the British cinema since 1972) and the popularity of U2's music (Bono and The Edge have recycled a few bars from The Joshua Tree as background).

But the powers-that-be at the RSC should be hanging their heads in shame at this puerile dreck.

Friday, 9 February 1990


Paul Anderson, review of Have by Julius Hay (Royal Shakespeare Company, Barbican Pit), Tribune, 8 February 1990

The Hungarian dramatist Julius Hay served two stretches as a political prisoner, first in thirties Austria for communist subversion, then in fifties Hungary for his prominent "anti-communist" role in the 1956 revolution.

He started to write Have during his first spell inside. It is a naturalist morality play about poverty, based on the true story of Tiszazug, a Hungarian village where, it, was discovered in – the twenties, generations of peasant women had murdered hus bands and other relatives by administering arsenic.

Have offers a simple Marxist interpretation, in which the women are motivated by material greed. Theirs is an individualist response to severe poverty, when what is really needed is. collective action to secure land reform.

Thus Mari, a poor servant girl made pregnant by Dani, a lowly policeman, marries Neighbour David, the richest local peasant, after she is initiated into the village women's secret by Mrs Kepes, the midwife.

Mari kills her husband on their wedding night but her consumptive stepdaughter, Zsofi, knows the truth and, fearing disinheritance, resolves to eliminate her.

Mari takes up again with Dani; but, suspecting foul play in Neighbour David's death and hungry for promotion, starts snooping around. The village women, believing Mari's over-hasty murder has put them all in danger of discovery, disown her. Isolated, Mari poisons Zsofi. We leave her confessing her crimes to Dani, who prepares to shop her.

The indiciment of greed could not be more stark, but Have is not quite simplistic agitprop. The characters are complex, and the message that collective action is the way to improve the peasant's lot is never more than implicit.

This production, directed by Janice Honeyman, is well acted, with excellent costumes and a sparse, elegant mud-spattered set. It provides a welcome introduction to a playwright whose work is largely unknown here. More please.

Friday, 2 February 1990


Paul Anderson, Tribune, 2 February 1990

 Lewis Mumford, the American writer on architecture, town planning and technology, who died last week at the age of 94, described himself as a "radical conservative", but no one who has read any of his books would ever confuse his politics with those of the current British government.

He was an unorthodox man of the humanist libertarian left, a precursor of the sixties new left and, particularly, today's greens in his consistent criticism of centralised power and capitalism's inherent alienation and wastefulness. Technics and Civilisation, first published in 1934 and recently reissued by the anarchist Freedom Press, is a history of the machine age that argues for using modern technology to allow us to work less; Culture of Cities (1938) is a sociological study that includes a visceral radical critique of the effects of uncontrolled urban expansion.

In Art and Technics (1951) and The City in History (1961, still available in Penguin paperback), he developed these themes further, and, during the sixties, he was an outspoken critic of the American military-industrial complex and of the war in Vietnam. In Britain, his work has been much praised by planners and architects – the writer Colin Ward is probably the best known of his admirers – but his ideas have rarely been put into practice, especially in recent years.

As anyone who lives in or visits our blighted inner cities will know, the case for the planned, human-scale development advocated by Mumford throughout his life has never been more relevant.