Monday, 18 August 2014

Minetti

Royal Lyceum Theatre
Four stars
“All artists are afraid,” says the ageing actor early on in this new
English translation of Austrian literary giant Thomas Bernhard's mid
1970s dramatic treatise on life, art and an actor's lot. Subtitled A
portrait of the artist as an old man, Bernhard's play has the title
character turn up at a wood-panelled Ostend hotel on New Year's Eve
while a storm rages outside. As played by Peter Eyre, Minetti makes his
entrance quietly enough, but, as he' tells anyone who pretends to
listen, he's here to meet a noted theatre director, who looks set to
cast him as King Lear thirty years after he turned his back on the
classics and killed his career.

As he waits, Minetti cuts a hangdog figure who plays to an ever
changing audience of drunken revellers while he waits, locked in a
limbo of his own making, out of step and out of time. At first he
accosts a woman in a red dress lost in her own champagne fuelled
reverie. Later it's a young woman waiting for her lover who leaves him
with a transistor radio playing an easy-listening instrumental version
of David Bowie's song, Kooks. All the while Minetti waxes lyrical, his
audience fluid, but at least they're still there.

Tom Cairns' production of his and Eyre's own translation is a stately
and melancholy affair that navigates the flotsam and jetsam of a
generation who doesn't care around his attention-seeking idea of the
artist as someone higher than mere mortals. Only when Minetti is alone
without anyone watching in the play's final moments is he unable
function, as he makes his final exit to embrace the storm.

The Herald, August 18th 2014


ends

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