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May 2004
Conversations after a Burial @ Burton Taylor Theatre
Conversations after a burial
Conversations after a burial
Conversations after
a burial

The Burton Taylor

18 -22 May 2004

£5 Entry £4 concessions

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By Andrew Blades

Conversations After A Burial was written in 1987 but it seems much earlier than that. It's one of those tense family dramas built around non-sequiturs and knowing glances over the potato peelings. All playwrights have at least one lurking in their closet; some (Ibsen, O'Neill) have even secured whole reputations on them. One suspects Yasmina Reza will not be remembered for this particular entry into well-trodden territory, though.

It is not a bad play, but there's a gap between what it tries to do and what it succeeds in doing. The characters that would appear to be central rarely ignite, and when they do, the effect is akin to watching them inhale one of their prop cigarillos; they splutter, then lose their spark as quickly as they find it. Elisa, the scarlet woman of the piece, utters one climactic line, 'I will be your pain', before wilting into the scenery again; Alex, the bitter son ignored by his late father, maintains such a constant level of petulance that his more emotive speeches fail to elicit much sympathy.

Whether the acting or the script is responsible is a matter for debate, and a lot of subtlety may have been lost in translation (it was originally written in French after all.) One performance undoubtedly towers above the others though: Tegan Shohet as Julienne, the beautiful, eccentric aunt. She is the only character who appears to have a full-blooded, fleshed-out history beyond the trite unrequited loves and jealousies; not a type, but a figure of human warmth.

And that's what is lacking in this play, and consequently the production: warmth. It's true that death brings out the lugubrious philosopher in all of us, not to mention the skeletons rattling out of the kitchen cupboards. But the ghost which haunts this play more than any other is that of Ibsen himself, and we all know what an icy so-and-so he was. All in all, not the best way to welcome in the summer months.

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