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Saturday, January 13, 2007

A review of Glass Houses

He said, She said.

Glass Houses
a radio play Colin Teevan

As we peer in at them it appears that they were once a happy couple. They both agree on that point. In this play we hear form both sides in two cross-cut monologues. Wife, perhaps to a journalist sometime after the fact. Husband, into a cassette audio tape recorder.

Where did it all go so bad? With the coming of the children? Did the problems, the games, really start over the accounting of family expenses? Didn't they always play power games? Didn't they get off on them at one time? Did the games get out of hand? Is the ultimate result just the last more, the last play, in the game? Is it the ultimate move or does it just appear that it is? Who lives in the Glass House? Husband? Wife? The both of them? We, the listeners? Who would we throw the stones at? Do we have any right to throw any? Is it possible to see clearly into a glass house? Did he go mad? Did it have to do with being on the treadmill to provide for the middle-class lifestyle that once had them so envied? Was she lying and cheating all along? Did the children just become a possession the fight over, just mere pawns in the games? Is it all a bluff in the end?

This play by Colin Teevan is an absolute mess of he said, she said. I'm not saying that Mr. Teevans' writing is a mess. I think his writing is spot on. What I'm saying is that it presents the mess of a love, a marriage, a family gone very wrong in such a way that it is impossible to get a solid, clear picture of who, if any single one, is at fault for the disaster. That it is a disaster for all involved is undisputable. That we can make heads or tails of why and who's to blame is impossible. This is the most real and illuminating aspect of the play. It points to the fact that it is very difficult, virtually impossible to make out what exactly happens in a relationship from the outside based on the testimony of the two people involved. They blame each other. But are they even clear as to who is at fault, or does it just come down to getting the outside, the law on their side to retain possession?

This BBC Radio 4 presentation of The Friday Play is very strong stuff. It is not recommended for those going through a difficult divorce. It is not a very good date play. It is not something to put on as light entertainment while you cuddle up with the one you love before the fireplace. It is harsh, angry, sad, troubling, but also devilishly clever and delightfully murky. Only two voices are heard through the hour. Husband is played by Greg Hicks. Wife by Clare Higgins. Both are excellent. Although I have no criticism of Mr. Hicks work here, I can't help but wonder how differently the drama would have felt if Husband was played slightly more toned down. I wonder if that might have done more to highlight the ambiguity of the piece. This ambiguity is what I love most about it. In the end I don't really know what went on with these two.
Of course the real star of this piece is the author Colin Teevan . He presents, doesn't tell too much, steps back, and allows the listener to do the rest, the listener is left to be the ultimate judge. I shirk the responsibility. I can't make a judgment in the end. I'm glad I'm not some divorce judge who has to figure these two out.
The only judgment I can make is a very easy one. This is very solid, very dark, very troubling, very hard hitting and thoughtful entertainment. Good show.

The play was directed by David Hunter with tasteful and effective music cues throughout.

But note: Glass Houses is available to "Listen Again" via The Friday Play page until January 18, 2007. I would advise you not to read the description of the play. Fortunately I didn't. I just clicked on the Listen Again button. I think the description is spoiling and misleading. You've been warned.

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