Trevor Griffiths Alan Brien - Essay

Alan Brien

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Even] in these days of stage nudity and mimic intercourse, such an episode [as the one opening Griffiths's The Party] still requires some strong dramatic justification for its sensational presentation. Partly because it is one of only two flurries of actual action which occur throughout the oratorio of talk and argument that evening in 1968, in this London flat, during the Paris revolt of students and workers. Partly because it throws some background light on the central character which nevertheless fails to illuminate his psyche much better than his physique.

How is he so rich, for example? (pp. 39, 41)

What is his secret sorrow, evoked with such Chekhovian melancholy by Mr. Pickup, with the dented smile and neglected hair of an old paintbrush left behind by the decorators?… Nobody up there asks him, and so nobody down here is ever told….

Such a subject [as the "Revolution" of May 1968] demands more than a Shavian rehash of what was said at the time by those who stayed in Britain wondering what hadn't hit them.

Either we need a multi-media, documentary post-mortem with first-hand evidence and all the stereoscopy of hindsight. Or we need to see how the event affected people here and then how they affected other people here.

The author, Trevor Griffiths, has said that 'nearly every major character in the play is me or is the scintilla of me'. It is an honest, and quite brave, admission of creative egoism. But I'm afraid it shows: for despite the dozen or so characters, and two outstanding performances, The Party remains a one-man show. (p. 41)

Alan Brien, in Plays and Players (© copyright Alan Brien 1974; reprinted with permission), February, 1974.