12 APRIL 1975, Page 26


Poor devils

Kenneth Hurren

The Exorcism by Don Taylor ((Comedy Theatre) The Two of Me by Stanley PtliCe (Jeannetta Cochrane Theatre)

Though I was not at the opening night of The Exorcism, when that gifted actress, the late Mary gave what was to be her 'last performance, it seems callous to write flippantly of a play so:tour...bed with tragedy. On the other 'hand, it is not a work I can bring myself to take altogether seriously.

There are two reasons for this. One is that the idea of moarciism itself while it may inspire an occasional sensational motion picture, and may even lead, asamelaave been aware in recent weeks, to unsavoury and gruesome incidents in real life does not strike me AS one that would engage the attention of anyone in close toudia aviith his trolley. Second, even When la bring myself to accept, just for the purposes of some seal-if-yang fictional enterprise, that peonleram become possessed by supernatural spirits, I'm afraid the notion of sada spirits from the past being motivated by contemporary socialconsciousness and influenced lhy tendentious political ideas, idammoit but strike me as a shade frivellous.

Don Taylor's little numberibasito do with a couple of fellows, tine an advertising man, the other a journalist, and their wives. The men have got on in the world at the expense of their compromised ideals, but the ideals they've .compromised are a bit vague—whirl is a pity because what they've got in .return doesn't seem bad at all, 'despite the load of guilt that the ad-man in particular is carrying around over it. He has risen from a humble home to go through university and seize a share of the affluent society, poor devil. Not only does he have a town place, but he has this country cottage as well and this is where the action takes place one Christmas. He seems to feel especially bad about the cottage and about its having been done up from Heal's and House and Ganden with never a care for the privations of the oppressed peasants for whom, centuries ago, it had been built. Never mind, Taylor is going to make him and his like-minded friends suffer for it quite drastically.

Their ordeal begins with dinner. The food makes them ill, and a 'rather decent burgundy turns into 'blood. Upstairs the skeleton of a ,dhild is discovered in some disarray on the bed, and the hostess passes out on the floor. None of this is doing much for anyone's nerves or disposition. In case you should be so intrigued by these happenings as to be attracted by the play, I suppose it would be breaking a confidence to disclose more of them, but there can't be any harm in letting you know that the reason they don't all just pack up and leave (perhaps to dine out on the fanciful tale of their experience, not only on 'Christmas night but for weeks afterwards) is that the doors are all lodked and they can't break the windows. I wish I could offer you the further enticement of a plausible explanation for all these implausible events other, I mean, than the one at which I have already hinted and I daresay Taylor does, too; but he doesn't ;make it, and therefore nor can I.

Miss Ure's role was that of the 'hostess who, when she comes totmd, bears the brunt of the possession business at the hands of those dedicated political thinkers Itrom the world of restless spirits; it !had been taken over by Margo Mayne when I saw the play and she gave a respectable account of it, !being no more at sea with such frodlishness as her colleagues ((Honor Blackman, Brian Blessed and Ronald Hines), none of whom is able to invest either the situation or the behaviour of the characters ,Witt the slightest conviction.

Clive Swift and David Swift, in. the more light-hearted circumstances of The Two of Me, have a singer problem in trying vainly to persuade us that they are (both of them) a man trying to write a play; the same man, or different facets of I thought they were largely 'defeated by the form of the work, -which cannot seem other than a tediously artifical contrivance. I. 115111Vf never been captivated by the torments of dramatic composition AS a subject for dramatic lactrimosition, and Stanley Price, the 'author of the piece, carries it 'unconscionably far. What he seems to he demonstrating is that he has hell's own trouble writing a play, and the play seems to be this one. Playwrights, in the nature of things, have to be granted a certain amount of self-indulgence, but this is 'ridiculous.