It is depressing to spend a night at the theater listening to people expound politics and be dull, more so when the point they’re making (or the side they’re taking) is one you approve of … on paper. Shaw and Miller, J. B. Priestley, these are people who can take politics and make them dramatic. Roots, on the other hand, is lecturing with an obvious point at the end told over far too much time. The Donmar turns it into a true masterclass in the Norwich accent, solidly acted, and I found much to admire in the realistic depiction of how people lived in the 50s (running water and electricity a luxury!) not to mention the new vocabulary used (“clobber” for clutter and “squit” for “crap,” as examples). And, my, the way the family shut down expressions of emotions was really, really eye-opening for me as a west-coast American.
But, seriously. I went to a nearly three hour play in which people 1) clean house 2) make cakes 3) take baths (after pumping and heating the water and pouring into a tin tub). The sprinkling of lectures about appreciating music and “solving moral problems” (et cetera) were just dull, dull, dull. Does it matter how much effort was poured into this play or how beautiful Jessica Raine was? At the end, she stands up and announces, “It’s happening to me!” and I couldn’t help but add, “Yes! You’ve become an incredible bore!” This obvious and dull play was just not really worth the trouble of reviving. Next time I’ll stick to Shaw: politics and plays mix at their peril.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, October 21st, 2013. It continues through November 30th.)