It appears that Howard Barker has not lost his ability to divide audiences — not even with a play like Scenes from an Execution, first written for radio in 1985 and now appearing on the National Theatre stage nearly 30 years later; it apparently continues to provoke. Lyn Gardner reports that some members of preview and rehearsal audiences have been walking out or not returning after the interval. It is hard, from this distance, to say why. Scenes is certainly one of Barker’s more conventional plays, a drama of ideas that superficially resembles, surprisingly, those of Bernard Shaw. Mainstream reviews have not yet appeared; on blogs, some writers claim to have been bored, others fascinated. Obviously in most cases this says more about the spectator than about the play, since what bores one person will excite the next. In the next few days we’ll see if the formal reviews are similarly divided.
In the headline to this Guardian interview posted yesterday, Barker is quoted as saying, “I don’t care if you listen or not”; the headline pulls this somewhat out of context; he is apparently describing his writing process rather than his attitude towards the spectator, collective or individual. It’s an interesting interview, though some citizens of the Twitterverse report that Barker is dissatisfied with the way it finally appeared. It’s worth a click. And below is the trailer from the National Theatre production, with Fiona Shaw as Galactia, directed by Tom Cairns and running into December: