Herb Greer is depressed by a play about the making of the Marilyn Monroe film "The Misfits." It is time to let the poor woman rest in peace foundations remain uncertain. Ernest Gellner unravels the flaws in the work of Isaiah Berlin, the champion of modern liberalismby Herb Greer / June 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
Published in June 1996 issue of Prospect Magazine
Just as good drama sends you out refreshed and lighter in spirit, so you leave the scene of theatrical dross feeling flat; it is as if you had witnessed an atrocity whose victims (including yourself) cannot be helped.
A bad production of a bad play produces a special resentment: it is an evening of your life, stolen by the thieves. Such gloom is redoubled when you know the company-in this case, Manchester’s Royal Exchange-is capable of wonderful work. In light comedy and fin de si?cle farce, Braham Murray and his colleagues can be peerless; they even managed to make, if not a silk purse, at least a nylon bumbag out of a sow’s ear like Look Back in Anger. Their classics tend to be marred by failures in acting technique, for example shouting of verse and modern body language in period costume; but this is down to the new instant-fame generation of actors, indifferent to classical skills which need years to build up and polish.
But there is no excuse for Manchester’s current disaster: Misfits. This crime against dramaturgy was committed by an American woman, Alex Finlayson-a product of the Mobil International play competition. After her first Royal Exchange production, Winding the Ball, she was given a generous bursary to write another play. Inspired by Eve Arnold’s photographs of the crew, author and cast of Arthur Miller’s film The Misfits, Finlayson laboured for 24 months. Misfits is the result.
The best plays, the best photographs are not just true; they are a dramatisation of the truth. As her current exhibition at the Barbican makes clear, Eve Arnold is one of the finest living photodramatists. Spanning four decades, her subjects range from immigrant potato pickers in the US to Arab women in the middle east, to Harlem, to a blizzard of subjects in between, including Marilyn Monroe and The Misfits.
Eve Arnold’s approach to her subjects, like that of any good artist, seems to move from the inside out to catch or create the image. Finlayso…