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For week ended February 06, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Summarized by Kent Larsen

LaBute's 'Bash' Praised and Criticized in London
London UK Telegraph 4Feb00 A4
By Charles Spencer


Miscellany: Reviews: Theatre: Faith worse than death: Bash
Manchester UK Guardian pg23 3Feb00 A2
By Michael Billington

LONDON, ENGLAND -- LDS Church member Neil LaBute's production "Bash" has hit London's Almeida Theatre, and has garnered ths same sorts of reviews that it gained in the U.S., with critics praising, yet revolted at the work. Both Charles Spencer of the Telegraph and Michael Billington of the Manchester Guardian reviewed the production, with Spencer noting that it is "perfectly possible to admire an artist's skill and cordially loathe his work."

"In a bracing essay, George Orwell once declared that the paintings of Salvador Dali were brilliant but that they should be burnt by the public executioner," writes Spencer, who says he is in a similar position regarding LaBute. He says that LaBute's skill can't be mistaken, and the results "makes the flesh creep."

As Spencer sees it, LaBute may be simply reminding his audience that sin exists, but LaBute is so "obsessed with darkness and evil that he has evidently forgotten the possibility of grace and redemption." He wonders if LaBute may be "the kind of sanctimonious cleric who is secretly turned on by the sins that he professes to condemn."

Spencer also praises the production as being "exceedingly well acted," by its American cast. But he still has reservations about the production because the plays themselves are so "repellent." "In depicting such Mormons, LaBute is presumably locked in some kind of private struggle with his own faith. I find it hard to care. If his work tells us anything about him it is that he is a misanthropic creep, and an evening in the company of those other ghastly Mormons, the Osmond family, would be more enjoyably spent."

Billington's review in the Guardian is kinder, giving the production a recommendation, but still making it clear the nature of LaBute's work. He suggests that LaBute is making a statement about American culture, saying that "America masks its darkest impulses under the guise of faith, fate and social orthodoxy."

Billington says the most unnerving thing about LaBute's work is that none of the characters are "overt monsters." They all have religious backgrounds and justify thier repugnant actions, as people often do, in the name of corporate advancement or social conformism.

Billington also praises LaBute's work for painting "a devastating picture of American values while also implying that individuals finally have to accept responsibility for their actions. The system, he suggests, is tainted but in the last analysis one cannot hide behind abstract notions of fate."

Billington also praises the acting, but notes that "the image one takes away from these three deeply disturbing plays is of desolate and lonely souls corrupted by a sick society."

"Bash" will be performed at the Almeida Theatre until March 11.


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