Review of the Week (16/17): Doctor Foster, Love Is Blind, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, It’s True, It’s True, It’s True

Earlier this week, Ben and I talked about our daydream future rabbits (Crumble, Custard, and Jeremy Irons). We’ve talked about getting fluffy friends for a while and keep putting it off because we’re never sure how long we’ll stay in one place and we’re hilariously financially unstable. Lockdown is putting into perspective how much we’d value having pets, and how everything is much more uncertain than we imagined, even when we thought we were being sensible and practical.

Then a couple of days ago, a very friendly black and white cat started visiting our garden. No collar but clearly looked after and well socialised, so we think it might be scouting us out as a holiday home. It’s amazing how much it immediately lifted us to spend even 10 minutes with Simon Cowell (which is his holiday home name), so maybe we’ll rethink bunnies again soon.

Cat tax (he decided to help me take the washing in by getting in the bag):

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covered in grass and pollen at all times because Simon Cowell LOVES to roll

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been up to for the last couple of weeks when I haven’t been hanging out with Simon Cowell.

Doctor Foster (S1)
What?:
SURANNE. JONES.

I’m pretty confident I watched this when it first came out back in the hazy days of 2017, but I embellished my memory of series one with some sort of exciting conspiracy plot??? I’m probably confusing it with something else. Anyway, it’s not a conspiracy, it’s just a twat cheating on his wife but all of their friends are sociopaths.

Suranne Jones is life, of course, and I understand why she won all the awards for her performance, but there’s a vagueness around the edges of this show. Foster is told a few times that men have biological urges, that men are genetically destined to cheat and/or be just like their fathers, and it feels like there could have been a clever way to tie that more sharply to Foster’s choice of medicine as a career… but we’re not really even shown whether she believes in all of this evolutionary psych bumf or not. It’s just repeated a few times, from different perspectives, as if that’s meaningful enough. There’s a similar weakness to how traditionally everyone seems to approach marriage, to what it means to be a wife, and a deeply unexamined subtext around motherhood.

I’m interested to watch series 2 because I cannot fathom what on earth there is to make a second series about, since S1 wasn’t about ‘why are men’ or ‘why do affairs happen’, it was about ‘how will Foster win’, and then she does win, so… I dunno. I’d watch Suranne Jones read the shipping forecast at this point though.

Love Is Blind
What?:
Are heterosexuals okay?

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the sci-fi dystopia of The Pods

I’m trash, and what’s worse, I’m late trash, since the rest of the internet is already getting over Tiger King and here I am, still trying to get my head around the het romance fantasy that is Love Is Blind.

I adore any reality TV that tries to establish itself as an ‘experiment’. Nothing has ever persuaded me to watch an hour of TV that starts at 10pm (bedtime) except The Circle, and Love Is Blind tugs on similar cave troll bits of my brain. It’s delicious how much repeated earnestness is given to the idea of proving that love is blind. As if that’s how actual experiments work – the participants are called upon to prove the thesis. They even repeat this idea during their horror show wedding ceremonies. Stand up in front of your actual family and friends and prove it‘s possible to fall in love with someone under completely dystopian manufactured circumstances. Prove it. Glorious.

The show itself gets flabby and drawn out in the middle, once the couples are out of The Pods (fuck) and in The Real World (lol). It also tramples over its own dubious ethics in the name of maintaining drama, which seems crueller here than in a lot of dating shows since it’s not just this bunch of fucken idiots involved, it’s also their families.

But Barnett’s birthday party though.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
What?:
A novel about a privileged young woman who decides, through the use of a cocktail of prescription drugs, to spend a whole year asleep

I don’t want to say too much about this book because I really loved it, I want you to read it, and then I want to talk to you about it.

I also want to reread it, because I want to read it knowing when the Thing That Is Obviously Going To Happen actually happens so I can relax and take my time getting to it. The (fore)shadow cast over the story made me race through the pages just to see when, when, when.

It also swirls around a lot of thoughts about relative privilege/relative pain, and the not-so-subtle take-down of contemporary visual art made me laugh multiple times. It’s either the perfect book for lockdown or the worst book for lockdown.

Anyway, hurry up and read it so we can discuss it properly.

It’s True, It’s True, It’s True
What?:
Breach Theatre’s staging of a 1612 rape trial, based on surviving court transcripts

The filmed version of It’s True, It’s True, It’s True is only available online until the 30th April so hurry up and watch it now. It’s a glorious show, hard and knotty and smart and swift and really really well done. (I’m mostly going to go off on a tangent now, but you should definitely watch it.)

This is the first piece of lockdown theatre I’ve watched. I don’t really like NT Live-style theatre recordings because I get distracted by close-ups, and thinking about who’s making the choices of close-ups, and wanting to see the whole stage even though I know a flat wide shot would be completely awful.

But that’s aesthetics. Fuck aesthetics. Because sometimes I don’t really like being in a theatre either (which is a great quality for a playwright and reviewer, lol). A lingering after-effect of going through life-altering trauma five years ago is that I panic in spaces where I feel physically or socially trapped, so if I actually want to get anything from a play except heart-pounding irrational fear, I need an aisle seat. Which seems like a small thing. But you’d be surprised how easily even a small thing can feel like an obstacle.

I often set good intentions to See More Theatre, and I go through brochures and websites and pencil stuff into my diary. Then I don’t bother. And I blame that on money, and some of it is about money. But some of it is also about the effort it takes for me to experience work unhampered by stuff which I recognise is personal to me, but which I nevertheless cannot avoid. And, relatively speaking, I’m not even up against much of a challenge.

I’ll be honest about something now before I make my final points on this. A production of my play PULL was scheduled for the end of March this year. At the beginning of March, when things looked uncertain, the theatre company suggested turning the production into a livestream – the actors would still be in the space, but the audience would all tune in from a distance. I argued against it because I wanted the first outing of this new play to be proper theatre. I think my approach to this was wrong, and coming from a place of fear and elitism. I think a lot of the denial that theatre can work at a distance is coming from fear and elitism. I’m complicit in this and I want to do better in the future.

~Being in the space~, liveness, and the sanctity of our artform as communal are not things we can prioritise if we’re going to survive this, and prioritising them was never fair in the first place. It’s okay if those things are important to your personal access and enjoyment of theatre, but the idea that something will be spoilt if other people are granted a different kind of access and enjoyment is as obtuse as the argument that DVDs spoiled the experience of going to the cinema. It is hard for all sorts of reasons for all sorts of people to go to the theatre. It’s not okay that the alternatives are only available now that it’s hard for all of us to go.