Elegy

THEATRE
*****
Elegy             
Whitespace

The audience sit around a large rectangle covered in piles of discarded clothes – and a chair. The performer emerges from these and tells a tale of broken and discarded lives. He tells of gay asylum seekers, and of those who are unable to escape today’s Iraq and the death squads there.

There are haunting events of terrible brutality. The actor, Jamie Bradley, conveys all of this is a very measured way, with a degree of calmness, and his is a consummate piece of acting, a joy to behold. There are vivid moments of connection,  -when the two boys first make eye contact when one is being forced to write right-handed – not like the devil! – and the panic of a forbidden kiss.

Immediately after the performance I was asked how I had enjoyed it – and I had; it had poetic beauty, grace and great skill. Yet it dealt with lethal homophobia, with appalling violence, with acts performed by those “whose hearts are dead,” as we were told.

I thought of hearing Toni Morrison, years back, speaking of her novel Beloved and saying she felt a kind of guilt making a thing of beauty which gave much pleasure out of the terrible experience of slavery.

The essence, though, is in the title: it is an elegy, performed in commemoration of the treasured dead, and honouring them by attention to detail and by the vivid portraying of their tribulations. It is also a superbly crafted and involving piece of drama, wonderfully performed; satisfying, shocking and angering all at the same time.