The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1087 Tuesday, 14 June 2005
Date: Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Subject: Theatre of Blood Play
"Tempers in the temple"
By Keith Miller
TLS: June 3, 2005
Theatre of Blood is something of an oddity: a film (1971) about plays,
itself now adapted, with no little ingenuity, into a play. The original
was a vehicle for Vincent Price - an actor who often behaved on film as
though he might prefer to be on stage. Price plays Edward Lionheart, a
Shakespearean actor of the Sturm und Drang school, who exacts a baroque
and sanguinary revenge on the critics who have destroyed his career. The
new adaptation by Lee Simpson and Phelim McDermott (and co-produced with
the National by their company, Improbable) retains the film's 1970s
setting, not to mention its liberal use of what theatricals used to
refer to as Kensington Gore. The play is confined to a dilapidated
Edwardian theatre, the proscenium of which has been sutured into the
Lyttelton like a botched facelift. The contrast between the necrotic
plaster and the crisp concrete is not merely picturesque, though it
takes us a while to realize this. Lionheart is played by Jim Broadbent.
He has lured seven critics into the theatre on seven different pretexts,
each of which whispers slyly to a vice or vanity of the critic in
question - drink, sex, advancement, and so on. The bitchy septet are
rapidly segregated and, one by one, dispatched. In every case, insult,
in the form of a fruity Shakespearian peroration from Lionheart, is
added to an injury which has been lifted from the play under excerpt. . . .
. . . The biggest laugh of the evening is also the cheapest one.
Oliver Larding, a washed-up, crapulent hack, pleading for his life
before getting the Clarence treatment, tells Lionheart that he knows
what it is to suffer, because "I work for the Daily Mail". . . .
[ . . . ]
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