Philobiblon: Becket

Thursday, November 25, 2004


To the theatre last night for Becket.

The reviews were far from good, and it is a flawed production, but still I thought a powerful one. The play, by Jean Anouilh, works well in places but not in others (Becket seems to go in the second act from embracing God to being angry at Him, without a transitional scene). And, while this translation by Jeremy Sams might work in a "modern dress" production, it grates horribly with the entirely traditional staging: "I see you're a man I can do business with", says Henry early on.

But it is in places very funny and played for laughs, particularly the strongly anti-Church scenes, and some of the political manouevres (although the audience seemed disinclined last night to be amused). (The script is not, however, very female-friendly, with Henry's wife and mother mere caricatures.)

It could be very easily slanted into an anti-war, anti-abuse-of-power vehicle that commented on recent events (as with Iphigenia at Aulis at the National - a fine production); I wonder why it wasn't?

But Dougray Scott as Becket is really spectacular, strong, coherent, and utterly believable. Jasper Britton is good as Henry in spoiled brat mode, but works rather less well as tortured soul. In the final "whipping" scene he really looks like a drama student miming agony, sad to say.


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