(Robert) Brian Clark John Russell Taylor - Essay

John Russell Taylor

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Can You Hear Me at the Back?] has little to recommend it. Oh, it tries hard and it means well, but it is desperately undramatic, talky in the worst possible way, and I would defy anyone actually to believe in any of the characters, so rigidly are they slotted into the roles they must play in the development of Mr. Clark's thesis about the progressive dehumanisation of modern society. The hero, if so he can be called, is an architect whose dream of a utopian new town in the midst of England's green and pleasant land has turned sour. He blames himself totally and compulsively for this: he keeps gazing out across the audience towards imaginary tower-blocks and lamenting his own and the place's lack of humanity. He is presumably, though no one observes this fact, having some kind of menopausal breakdown, and his self-inculpations do not for a moment stand up to scrutiny, so it is fortunate they never get any in the course of the play. (p. 69)

It all ends—I do not think I am actually giving anything away to say so—with the architect going off alone into the wilderness to find himself and everyone else left pretty well where they were…. Was Whose Life Is It Anyway? a happy flash in the pan? When one thinks about it, there is some very sloppy characterisation around the charismatic central character there, but least the role and the performance distract one from the stereotypes in support. With a similarly strong central situation Mr. Clark could probably pull it off again, but with anything less he has problems. (pp. 69-70)

John Russell Taylor, in a review of "Can You Hear Me at the Back?" in Drama (reprinted by permission of the British Theatre Association), No. 134, Autumn, 1979, pp. 69-70.