The Balcony

RSC at the Aldwych.

London programme

You sit facing a row of mirrors, reflecting every part of the auditorium. Genet's House of Illusions - in Terry Hands' production is with you even before the play starts. A thunderous drumroll, and you are pitched into the haunting carousel of Mme Irma's whore-house. The first four scenes, in which ordinary, insignificant men act out their sex/power fantasies to gigantic proportions are the weakest in a magnificent production. Although strikingly staged and acted, one does not believe that the prepared scenarios between whore and client are the quintessence of sexual longings. The men don't f**k the whores, for they have elaborated in detail rituals to produce the most exquisite orgasm - the ultimate mental w**k-off. The contradiction between the gigantic Figures they enact and the ordinariness of their lives comes over too often as comic undercutting.

The Balcony

From the next scene between Mme Irma and Carmen, her favourite, the company begin to sink their teeth into the play & there are many stunning sections: Carmen - dressed as St Theresa - summoning the Figures from their studios with a dull bell-like bringing out the victims of the Black Death; Roger, the revolutionary idealist, being verbally cut to pieces by the practical man-of-the-moment, Mark; the Balcony itself looming up in front of the Figures as they stumble out into public view. Alan Howard as the icily erotic Envoy - one can't begin to do justice to such an overwhelming event.

Time Out, 31.12.71 - 6.1.72.

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