This is one of the saddest, most harrowing, horrifying books I've ever read. Despite an occasionally dragging plot, I read it in 24 hours and it madeThis is one of the saddest, most harrowing, horrifying books I've ever read. Despite an occasionally dragging plot, I read it in 24 hours and it made me cry. And, incidentally, it was absolutely the wrong book to read during Storm Frank. The entire house shook for most of it, and I've been cold for 24 hours....more
It's hard for me to compliment something - even something with as many virtues and plainly amazing writing in parts as this - when my first act afterIt's hard for me to compliment something - even something with as many virtues and plainly amazing writing in parts as this - when my first act after reading this is to pull up the Wikipedia summary and think, "Damn, I would've enjoyed this a lot more if I'd read this first."...more
The earlier you read this play, the more I think you'll enjoy it. Or perhaps I should rephrase that. I'm no moral guardian - hell, I look at3.5 stars
The earlier you read this play, the more I think you'll enjoy it. Or perhaps I should rephrase that. I'm no moral guardian - hell, I look at some of the stuff I used to read when I was 12-ish and shudder - but this isn't the sort of books kids should read, if only because I don't think it's safe for kids to read philosophically about whether it's possible for child molesters to love them (!). What I mean is that there is something so close to convention in its treatment of its dark subject, lean, mean writing, and shocking moments poised to cause shock and discomfort that it seems better suited to those who aren't quite as used to the particular style born out by "issue theatre" (not inherently a bad thing, and, certainly, Harrower comes up with an addictive and almost irresistible play to chew on.)
And, um, this is one of those plays with all the qualities of a Great Play. It's a great great play for student productions thanks to its stripped-down nature - one simple set, two meaty roles (one male, one female), pretty short run-time, edgy but provocative material. It's wonderfully written.
But it's so damn sparse. It annoyed me because of how much it feels like the archetypal Edgy British Play from around this time - told in jagged, disjointed sentences that are sort of a paradoxically stylised vernacular. Revolving around one dark, edgy subject (statutory rape, the repercussions of). There are fascinating subjects floating around it, but ultimately the play itself is focused on being "thought-provoking" that it doesn't actually feel like it tells a story. Fascinating elements are only alluded to in part, such as Una's loneliness as a child, Una's relationships with her parents after the 'truth' about her and Ray's relationship emerges, and the general repercussions on Ray's later relationships. Cliches (if, sadly, cliches with truth in them) like Una's promiscuity are dwelled upon far more than more interesting and complicated subjects such as her capacity for new 'love' and what would make her describe her sexual relationships in detail to her parents (!). Sometimes, this is a play that seems almost to be using all its edgy, dark, and twisted - but beautiful - writing, to sadly go for much more obvious and less daring targets than may first appear.
Still, it's wonderfully written, twisty and dark and sharp. Yet it doesn't really feel ambiguous because it's so short and kind of deliberately underdeveloped - so intent on making you, the reader, think that it doesn't really seem to think anything of its own. The characters exist mostly, intentionally, as archetypes for discussion and contemplation, debate that can never have an answer because Harrower has deliberately provided you with only enough to make you wonder, and not enough to make you decide or choose. Harrower doesn't take a stance on anything. The twists are so damn manipulative that you can pretty much feeling Harrower jabbing at you with the end of his pencil, saying, "Can you handle this yet?" It's so obviously designed to pique the audience's sensibilities, to make them wonder and question, that it's almost irritating. For a play about such a dark, horrible subject, it's also a play that can't make up its own mind - or didn't seem to have one in the first place. ...more