Motortown

Simon Stephens; little death productions, directed by Ben Packer. Stables Theatre, 10 Marc

This is an entertaining play, and the performances were all excellent, but it wasn’t till I read Alison Croggon’s description of it as “a scathing indictment of contemporary Britain” that I could really put my finger on the second reason for why I found it dissatisfying.

The play’s central character, Danny, is a soldier who has just returned from Iraq. He is by no means satisfied with contemporary Britain because he says things like “you come back to… this”, but nowhere in the play did I get any idea of just what his problem with contemporary Britain is. There are the obligatory racist rants which every new English play seems to contain: presumably these are there to make the audiences feel thrillingly politically incorrect, but, again, these don’t really connect with anything apart from other clichés. If this is satire, then so is being driven around by a reactionary cab driver. It also reminds me of those late Roger-Waters-era Pink Floyd albums where he’s so unhappy about how he’s not living in the 1940s anymore.

The first reason is that about halfway through, I started to wonder about how much drama is constructed around the figure of the inarticulate, rage-filled, violent man, and to what extent this figure is actually real, or alternatively a kind of McGuffin to build plots around. Like Chekov’s gun, only in this case it’s the man who’s going to go off.

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