Thursday, May 11, 2006

Fire in the Embers

Went with friends to see Embers on Tuesday, to celebrate Eva's birthday. I was a little worried - the early reviews were mixed, emphasising the near-monologue second half as a challenge that Jeremy Irons either surmounted or failed, depending on the reviewer.

The other challenge of the play to an early 21st century English-speaking audience is that it Sandor Marai's story is, well, so un-English. It takes friendship, love and the betrayal of both seriously. Irony is used to intensify, rather than to diminish, involvement. And back we come to the fact that the second half is pretty well a monologue. Where the play succeeds so well is that it convinces us entirely that this intensity is not ridiculous but real, so much so in fact that someone behind me called on her creator at least a couple of times as the story unfolded.

Are we right to accept such high-flown drama? Isn't this the the slippery slope to melodrama and Victorian hypocracy? Not, I think, in case of Sandor Marai. Take a look at his US journal. I laughed at how the first line of the programme's entry on him started with the date he shot himself, and joked that was how all good Hungarian biographies started, but just read the journal. The intensity is all there - it is natural, it is moving and it is entirely real. I am not at all embarrassed to be moved by the play or the journal.

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