Television play in two parts, written 1976 according to Brown. Unproduced in that medium; first performed in the season “Plays Television Would Not Do” at the RSC Warehouse Theatre, 20 February 1979. Directed by Barry Kyle; stage directions read by Teddy Kempner. With Edward Jewesbury (Veracek), Nicholas Le Prevost (Gregor), Peter Hugo-Daly (Gary), Iain Mitchell (Mr. Mik), Caroline Hutchison (Dr. Mahony), and others. Text in The Love of a Good Man/All Bleeding, London: John Calder, 1980, pp 71-106 (out-of-print).
“All Bleeding throws into contrast two phenomena of contemporary society, the urge to die and escape from an unsavoury world, and the life force that often finds its outlet in the desire to kill or be killed. Three attempted suicides in the course of a few minutes overwork the Metropolitan River Police, while members of a teenage judo club, the violence of their instruction fresh in their ears, watch and cheer. As the stories of the protagonists unfold, Barker’s dramatic technique exposes the unhealthy tissues in our society, the cancers that are growing beneath the skin of everyday apparent normality.” 
Veracek, a Hungarian emigre political cartoonist, is recovered from the Thames after an attempted suicide. He is joined in his hospital room by Gary, a young man who has attempted suicide in the same manner after being hounded by a group of judo students whom their teacher, Mr. Mik (who, in his working life, has replaced Veracek as the editorial cartoonist for a newspaper), has instilled with nationalistic hatred. Veracek’s rise and fall as a political cartoonist in England is told in a series of flashbacks which detail his conflicts with both Hungarian and British authority (in the person of Winston Churchill himself). In the end, Veracek’s faith in reason and the socialist dream is tested by both Gary’s faith in a redemptive Christ and his own growing doubts about the political efficacy of art.
Although All Bleeding is most significant as an early version of the 1981 stage play No End of Blame, which would sharpen focus more intently on the relationship of Veracek’s art to that of his less politically-oriented artist friend Gregor, it is noteworthy for other reasons as well. It is the first of Barker’s plays to examine the relationship of the artist and the culture in which he finds himself, a theme which Barker would explore throughout his career from Scenes from an Execution all the way through I Saw Myself, Blok/Eko, and Hurts Given and Received; it continues an ongoing concern with the competing socialist/capitalist ideologies of the Second World War, also examined in Claw and Fair Slaughter; and, finally, it predicts the thread of “anti-history” that would run through Barker’s plays with the on-stage presence of Winston Churchill, who appears to censor Veracek’s wartime drawings. Churchill does so, significantly, while he is engaging in the creation of art himself, as he paints a landscape, telling Veracek, “Art … is the epitome of the endeavor of mankind. … You have degraded art. You have swept art in the gutter. You have poured the poison of your prejudice into the holy house of art.” (91) His censorship is physically crude as well:
(Churchill bends, takes up a package of card-board mounted, large format reproductions of Vera’s cartoons. He places them on his easel. The top one shows Himmler standing over a mound of bodies. The caption reads “Heil Hitler.” Churchill paints a large red tick across it.) Good. (He pushes it off onto the ground, exposing the second. This shows Hitler as a dentist, bloody handed, beckoning Churchill into his surgery. Churchill has a concealed a bigger pair of pliers behind his back. Churchill ticks this too.) Good. (And so on to the third …) Good. (He pushes that onto the floor, exposing a fourth.) Good. (The final one shows a drowning merchant seaman. Underneath the caption reads “The price of Petrol is to be Increased by one penny.” He paints a large cross through it.) Bad.
VERA: The oil companies are making an obscene profit.
CHURCHILL: You cannot fight a war with water. You must fight it with petroleum.
VERA: Seamen are drowning.
CHURCHILL: Do not dare to tell me our sailors our drowning. Do not presume to lecture me upon the sacrifices of our people. DO NOT DARE.
VERA: It is a vile profit.
Many years later, censorship would become more insidious, exercised not directly through government but through the ownership of newspapers, demonstrated in the first scene of the second part of the play.
Perhaps the most significant difference between All Bleeding and No End of Blame is in their conclusions. No End of Blame ends on an ambivalent note, with Veracek begging the theatre audience for a pen with which to continue his art. All Bleeding, however, concludes with Veracek’s suicide, and his injunction to his doctor to destroy his final work as an editorial cartoonist, “a grotesque caricature of the stereotyped terrorist, bloodstained and wading through a sea of innocent victimis. It is titled ‘The Future.’” (106) It is an early indication of Barker’s growing impatience with satire and a recognition of its dead end as an aesthetic genre.
- Jacket copy of the John Calder edition. [↩]