Okay, I can finally fire enough neurons to give you my impressions of the show. Truly, I have been a madwoman since Sunday's matinee.
Short version: OMG!
SERIOUSLY. MAJOR SPOILERS.
My darlings, it left nothing to be desired except another 30 minutes.
First of all, it was a tiny theater of 75 close-packed seats and a stage raised off the floor no more than a foot. We rejected the front row as being way too intimate a theater experience, but even so they had to bring in folding chairs to accommodate a more-than-sold-out show. Good!
It was a black-box theater, my favorite kind: where the set is abstract and unobtrusive. I don't care for realism, much. The back wall had video-projected images of the Radcliffe Camera, or Robert's shop, etc.
Phew. I don't even know how to begin to describe this.
*shows pictures instead*
Here's Lawrence in evening dress, having escaped a dreadful party. This is where he meets Graves both in real life and in the play.
ROBERT: You're the most important person here, and you're hiding in the garden.
NED: I'm not hiding in the garden. I'm hiding in the garden with you.
ROBERT: A pair of Adams?
NED: It would have saved the world a lot of trouble.
Their relationship is shown as it seems really to have been: an extraordinary, passionate (passion both positive and negative) communion of severely wounded souls. It shows (but is not about) Robert's episodes of shellshock and Ned's chill rage of rape trauma. A scene which exposes the violence of Ned's startle response scares the hell out of Robert and the audience both. In the aftermath Ned speaks of the filth of Self in a blasphemous litany of "I the just, I the merciful, I the loving"... taking the names of God to himself and reviling his corruption.
Having just ambushed a whole super-economy-sized pack of Ned's trauma crazy, Robert sits as close as he dares. But at least the gun (out of sight in Ned's right hand) is no longer pointed at him. (Um, he's not naked. He's in his skivvies. It's 4 am.)
They scheme elaborate pranks, including the "liberation" of the Magdalen College deer, and flying Lord Curzon's trousers from the pinnacle of the Camera. Where Ned leads, Robert follows.
Oh deer. Curzon and antlers.
Robert delivers a scandalous Remembrance Day speech: the dead will be, must be forgotten.
The bulk of the play rests here, on the idea of remembrance and forgetting. Lord Curzon has decided that November 11 will forever be set aside as Remembrance Day, and asks each of them to delivering a fitting little speech. The whole idea is abhorrent to both Ned and Robert.
Robert spends his time with Ned, avoiding his own home where his wife Nancy will not allow him to mention the War at all.
ROBERT: I think I may be.... I think there's something wrong with me.
NANCY: You promised me that you would not bring the War into this house.
In a frenzy he tells her everything: every shell that bursts over their bed while she sleeps, every rotting dead face that walks through their door: but she won't hear it. She won't remember, he can't forget.
Nancy from the beginning suspects that Robert is infatuated with Ned. We know that before she does. He is completely lovestruck from the start, bounding around like a happy puppy; lovely and loving. (In real life, potatofiend reminds me, Graves would go bicycling around Oxford quoting Lawrence to all and sundry, because Ned Is Always Right.) Ned begins to warm himself back to life at the fire of Robert's love, but never lets him too close.
Arguing with Robert.
Finally, when Nancy and Ned meet, she demands to know what Robert is to him. He explains... that all of his life he had tried to empty himself and become a mirror. To mirror the moon on the desert sand, or his own brothers; that with Robert he only wanted to reflect a perfect being.
Ned weeps at last for his brothers, dead at the Western Front.
NED: We flew in formation, my brothers and I.
And with that comes Ned's Remembrance Day.
Here's the New York Times review.
And... please pardon my incoherent rambling. Did I mention it was good? It was good. :-)
X-posted to te_lawrence