QUENTIN LETTS reviews A Very Very Very Dark Matter

A foul-mouthed stinker … save your shillings! QUENTIN LETTS reviews A Very Very Very Dark Matter at the Bridge Theatre

Gosh, you think, that artful writer Martin McDonagh (whose work includes The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Hangmen) has a new play at the Bridge, Sir Nicholas Hytner’s handsome theatre by Tower Bridge.

It is running until January and must be a Christmas cracker.

Quick, where’s the credit card and the Bridge’s website address?

Jim Broadbent (pictured) plays Hans Christian Andersen in a new play at the Bridge in London

Save your shillings. This one’s a stinker – suitable only for theatrical rubber-neckers.

Jim Broadbent plays Hans Christian Andersen, 19th century author of children’s stories.

Apparently he did not devise the stories himself. No. They are the creation of a one-legged, sausage-chewing, Congolese pygmy (Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles) who is trapped in a box in Andersen’s Copenhagen attic.


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The production’s programme carries an essay about Belgian colonial atrocities in the Congo.

The pygmy may represent Congolese slavery, though why Andersen, who was Danish, is being blamed for the sins of Belgium is not explained. As the audience settles at the start, the pygmy’s box swings left and right like a large clock pendulum.

Anna Fleischle’s dark set, draped with hanging puppets, has a nightmarish quality, innocent snow visible through the windows. A taped narration (voiced by gruff Tom Waits) tells us that Andersen is an ‘iconic’ writer. Ugh. Mr Broadbent’s Andersen speaks in a modern British argot, emphatically matey and coarse. Much of what he says is nonsensical.

Jim Broadbent’s latest role will see him transformed into Christian Andersen , the play is running until January

He announces that he is off to England to stay with Charles Dickens, who may also have a ghost-writing pygmy. Dickens finds Andersen a bore (he’s not wrong) and after five weeks tells his guest to get lost. Actually, he puts it more strongly than that. There are numerous profanities, some uttered by child actors playing Dickens’s offspring.

The contrast of their outer innocence and the nastiness of the language may or may not be a comment on western children’s literature.

The 85-minute evening is peppered by F and C words, a ‘gyppos’, ‘b******s’, ‘banging the broads’, ‘s***loads’ and a rash of ‘c**k and balls’.

Some fool behind me roared with laughter at the first few swear words. After a while even he lost interest.

When Andersen returns home he finds that the pygmy has escaped her box and has murdered a couple of blood-smeared ghosts with an accordion which has been turned into a machine gun.

Seldom have I surged with such yearning myself to cop a few bullets.

Can you murder ghosts? Mr McDonagh certainly shows that you can murder dramatic reputations.

 

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