C(ecil) P(hillip) Taylor THE TIMES, london - Essay

THE TIMES, london

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Happy Days Are Here Again] asks to be taken on two levels: as an exciting exploration of guilt and as a piece of Marxist allegory. On neither does it succeed. If the suspense of the former had been more conscientiously maintained, the allegorical interpretation might have emerged more convincingly.

In form, the play strongly resembles Hugh Leonard's The Poker Session. A young prostitute, accidentally pregnant, having been despatched for an abortion, her Jewish uncle holds a party for the men responsible for her downfall. Himself apart, a lecherous cleric, a glib biology student, a wealthy capitalist, and a balding poet are all guilty parties. But the begetter of the child and the convenient scapegoat is a bovine electrical engineer. Accepting his major share of the guilt without question, he allows himself to be hanged by the remaining quintet. Their sense of release following the deed turns sour when they realise the moral consequence of their action.

On the realistic plane, the play is manifestly implausible. No man readily accepts execution as a means of expiating his sins. Unacceptable realistically, the same character cannot then be seriously regarded as the proletarian victim of a ruthless cap-italist society. Mr. Taylor has made the mistake of building his allegory on an unsure foundation.

"Marxist Allegory Built on Unsure Foundation," in The Times, London (© Times Newspapers Limited 1965), September 22, 1965, p. 14.