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.