An Actor’s Lament

Gaiety Theatre Dublin – 1st to 6th September 2014.

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Steven Berkoff stars with Jay Benedict and Andrée Bernard in this glimpse backstage, lifting the curtain on the bizarre and often hilarious world of theatre. From precious playwrights and dictator directors to the good will (or otherwise) of the critics – a maze of thickets the actor must negotiate before they ever reach the stage.

A comedy about the bizarre lives of actors and the many fights, frustrations – and madnesses – they are prone to.

Cast:

John, an actor:  Steven Berkoff
David, a critic:  Jay Benedict
Sarah, an actress:  Andrée Bernard

Copyright Robbie Jack

Copyright: Robbie Jack

Lament 2

Lament 1

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REVIEWS

The Good Review – (Leigh Johnstone)

The Skinny – (Eric Karoulla)

The Quotidian Times

Edinburgh Guide – (Justine Blundell)

Extract from Edinburgh Guide review:

While what is said reveals nothing new, Berkoff’s writing still contains a rhythmic beauty, incisive wit and ambrosian, eminently quotable turns of phrase. Also enduring is Berkoff’s physical style which demands that actors embody the words, not just spout them out, ensuring that a Berkoff play is always a truly theatrical experience. His actors did not let him down.

The Herald Scotland – about half way down the page – (Neil Cooper)

The List – (Gareth K Vile)

Extract from The List review:

The pleasure is in watching three skilled performers work Berkoff’s script: the attacks on actor-managers and directors are gradually undermined by counter-arguments and a dry humour emerges from each character’s self-interest. While the opening rant against critics is predictable, there is a good humour in the roasting: Berkoff plays with his own image mercilessly, and takes joy in delivering exaggerated insults … An Actor’s Lament is entertaining and playful: an hour spent in the company of curmudgeonly raconteurs who deserve to be indulged for their wit and panache.

Exeunt Magazine – (Tom Wicker)

British Theatre Guide – (Philip Fisher)

The Edinburgh Reporter – (Ade Morris)

Extract from the Edinburgh Reporter review:

This is a highly entertaining fire and brimstone verse fuelled tirade against the agents of theatrical mediocrity – worthy of the pen of Alexander Pope. The stage has been Berkoff’s enduring love, and so the theatre is the dark glass through which he attacks all that is base in the modern drama, film and TV world. No-one in luvvie-land escapes Berkoff’s amusing wrath as his three louche thesps. debate the state of things, – critics, trashy ‘fingers on the pulse of mediocrity’ producers and non-acting directors all being prime targets for the erudite and angry fire of his tongue.

Writers have a slightly easier time of it, being mauled and mangled by the former accused, while actors of course are fated to be saints and despairingly salacious sinners. The sting in Berkoff’s writing retains all it’s delicious poison with some wonderful explosions from the king of flash, and all three characters are brought to far larger than life in the complacent aura of accomplished theatre types – with Jay Benedict and Andree Bernard delightedly sharing the burden of bile. But yes this is satire, so tongues are firmly in cheeks, and in truth everyone gets a very decent pasting; it’s the audience, quite rightly, who are left to decide who is best left in charge of the wounded art of live theatre.

The Times (pay wall) – (Libby Purves)

Extract from The Times review:

I am in love at last with the pitiless phenomenon that is Berkoff at full throttle (though it may have been the lurid green snakeskin shoes that sealed the deal). In an hour of cascading, swooping free verse, with Jay Benedict as a suave playwright and Andrée Bernard as an actress, he plays the master and plays the fool. His mime training is parodied as he twinkles round the stage, lighting and inhaling invisible fags, bridling, flirting, taking and giving offence, half playful and half paranoid.

They discuss The Theatre, sometimes agreeing, sometimes at one another’s throats. “The West End now a stately morgue, Chekhov once again exhumed..” A row erupts over whether actors give “muscle” to writing, or writers animate the empty shell that is an actor.

There are beauties amid the bitching: an affirmation that for audiences in cramped seats, “ripped off by fat producers, overcharged for drinks”, the actor’s duty is to “carry them away”. And when Berkoff speaks of playing Macbeth, “a murderer striding through your veins”, you shiver.

The Stage – (Gerald Berkowitz)

Fest Magazine – (Evan Beswick)

Extract from Fest Magazine review:

“Steven Berkoff’s actorly dystopia, it seems, has come to pass. An art world of easy sentiment peddled by barely literate, thin-voiced, straight to television nubiles. A world in which new work must toss up easy sentiment for grubbing over by the public and press – these “stuttering toerags wallowing in the swamp of self-importance”.

What then, is the glossy take-home of this enjoyably venomous hour? Much less a new manifesto for art, the point is largely thus: that Berkoff and his co-stars, Jay Benedict and Andrée Bernard, are brilliant – and if you’re not them, you’re probably not as good.

It’s a message that is pretty well evidenced. Three actors, clearly on top of their craft, demonstrate that hamming and carping in sure hands can indeed be an art form.

The Scotsman – (Joyce McMillan)

WhatsOnStage – (Michael Coveney)

Broadway Baby – (Douglas Thomas Gibson)

Edinburgh Spotlight – (Danielle Farrow)

Review of pre-Edinburgh preview at The Maltings, Berwick-upon-Tweed.

ARTICLES

Steven Berkoff talks about An Actor’s Lament in The List.

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berkoff taxi

Photo credit: Laura Donaldson

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