An Old, Posh Woman Hates People

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Not that I am old or posh, but Dorothy, the main character of Alan Bennett’s People sure is.

Everything has a price, for Dorothy it’s her house. She doesn’t want it to be refurbished or downtrodden, she just wants it to stay the same and get taken for granted. This means the National Trust that wants to acquire the manor house and make it a touring destination shouldn’t get it as her sister hopes, but that a porn movie should film in the main room and a mysterious secret society known as The Concern should purchase and move it to another county. Oh, and there’s a frisky bishop that likes Dorothy’s sister, or all women, I’m not quite sure.

However interesting this may sound, it didn’t come across from plot to screenplay. After slowly plodding along through the first hour and hearing the same conversation multiple times between different people, we got the first potentially interesting moment. A movie maker that knew Dorothy in her modelling days wants to use this house as a set. She doesn’t know it’s pornography and if it wasn’t promoted to get people to the play, the audience would still have the surprise waiting for them. The interesting pornography scene lasted ten minutes of people coming in, being directed to different rooms so they wouldn’t find out it was porn, and other hijinks for the porno actors, before we were back to a reversal of what happened before. Slowly the characters come in, cover the same topics they discussed with Dorothy in the first act, and leave for the next character to do the same.

The acting was fine, the set was good, the lighting a bit dim, the costumes identifiable and the sound a bit heavy-handed. Asking around after the play I came to discover my opinion was true to how everyone perceived it. My favourite reaction from a patron: “It was great, at least I stayed awake!” The Guardian called the 2012 London National Theatre production of People “provocative fun” but there was no provocation, barely any excitement to call fun at the end.

Maybe if this play had followed through on any of the plot devices or storylines it tried so hard to develop it would have become entertaining. Maybe if it felt less rehearsed and more natural. Or maybe if it felt less like a boring sitcom with posh, unlikeable, and unrelateable people sitting around a fire meekly complaining about everything they can think of, then it would have been better. Maybe.

 

Fair warning: this play has nudity and scenes of a sexual nature. It is suitable for people over 15 years old.

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