(Robert) Brian Clark John Russell Taylor - Essay

John Russell Taylor

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Brian Clark does tend a bit, even at the best of times, to reach-me-down, television-shorthand sort of characterisation. In Whose Life Is It Anyway?, for instance, there is that embarrassingly black orderly who has this strong sense of rhythm and is the simple, sexy child of nature in a neurotic white world. The concept, one would say, is nearer Crossroads than serious drama, where it might be supposed—or at least the possibility explored—that being black is not enough to absolve one from care and neurosis altogether. In Clark's new play, Can You Hear Me at the Back?, what has seemed up to now a peripheral infection eats away at the whole structure of the play.

The package seems to have been put together, in fact, largely to lure people who normally watch nothing but television. (p. 18)

[The] text is a relentless talk-fest, in which the characters seem to talk directly to the audience, standing in for various study-groups, lecture audiences, congregations and the life in his new-town setting, almost as much as they talk to one another. And when they do talk to one another nobody really listens, nobody really understands, they all have their little strategems for evading communication in such excellent repair. The central character, Philip Turner, is the architect of a new town who is going through some sort of male menopause, or identity crisis, or whatever, because he has come to feel that all the decisions on which the town was built are humanly wrong and he is disgusted with himself, his work, his life. Unfortunately as written …, he has none of the savage self-destructive energy which enlivens John Osborne's somewhat similarly situated hero in Inadmissible Evidence; he...

(The entire section is 718 words.)