“I love everything about you that hurts”
Obnoxious people doing obnoxious things for well over two hours – safe to say Patrick Marber’s Closer rubbed me up the wrong way something rotten, and scarcely believing that this was the winner of the Olivier for Best New Play in 1997. Characters float from scene to scene with little genuine motivation, no sense of inner life, just this insistence that there’s something meaningful in being unerringly truthful to one’s self when it comes to matters of desire, no matter the consequences.
Some might be tempted to find something contemporary in Marber’s depiction of lustful impulses overriding all, where sex and deceit go hand in hand with the dawning of the age of the internet. But what resonated strongest for me was the outdated manner in which the two female parts, but Alice in particular, are written. Despite Rachel Redford’s best efforts, Alice never breaks through the distasteful male fantasy gaze that posits her as an enigmatic stripper who just wants to be loved by a man (and not just any man…yes, you) – it’s enough to make even the most homosexual of men feel dirty.
The dalliances and infidelities that plague the interactions of all four of Marber’s characters cast no-one in a good light though. Rufus Sewell’s Larry blisters into ugly violence, Oliver Chris’ Dan practically revels in his self-doubting, self-destructive tendencies and even Nancy Carroll – how very lovely to see her back on stage again – isn’t immune as her Anna cannot seem to get past her restlessness. And so round and round the merry-go-round they all go, slipping into relationships, marriages, affairs, internet chatrooms with each other but never able to settle.
A bit like us really, during David Levaux’s production here – superficially shiny, especially in the super-chic sweep of Bunny Christie’s design, but unable to do convince that there’s anything but hollowness below the surface. Ironically enough, I spoke to a friend last night about Mike Bartlett’s Bull and whether it was fair to criticise it for just showing the nastiness in the world and nothing more – I defended it staunchly at the time, now I’m not so sure.