Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Page To Stage
Another bank holiday sprints into the distance, bringing with it summer rain, cake and coffee, evenings down the pub with friends, and various other hurrah-not-at-work type happenings. Oh, and Vernon God Little, the Young Vic’s staging of DBC Pierre’s Booker-winning novel.
I’ve read the book and remember liking it for its Technicolor prose style, though the actual plot faded faster from my memory then, well, a fast-fading thing. It was just one of a glut of novels based around school shootings that came out a couple of years ago, and not the best one at that. Fortunately this didn’t prove to be to much of a problem – unlike some page-to-stage adaptations, Rufus Norris’ production was easy enough to follow, whether or not you had any knowledge of the book. I’m just a little puzzled as to the point of the exercise.
Shorn of Pierre’s prose style, the story feels clumsy and cartoonish in the extreme: Vernon Gregory Little, a teenager from a small town in Texas, has been falsely accused of being an accessory to mass murder after his friend Jesus opened fire on his high school class mates before turning the gun on himself. As a satire of media mores and excesses, it already feels dated, a fact compounded by the recent appalling events at Virginia Tech. It also unfailing opts for easy laughs. Americans you see, they’re funny because they’re stupid. And fat. And greedy. OK, the book swiped at the very same targets but these were easier to take in the context of Vernon’s first-person narration
The set was something of an oddity too, consisting mainly of a moveable platform – seemingly made of sticky-backed plastic – that was raised and lowered at various points in the production. And the Young Vic got to play with their exciting new toy again, the ceiling heist – so Vernon spends the closing scene wearing a harness over his fetching pink shirt. The cast were great though, tackling multiple roles with ease, and Colin Morgan made an engaging Vernon, baffled, angry, horny, a plausible teenager in an impossible situation.
The whole thing was at least a whole lot slicker and more entertaining than Absolute Beginners. But whereas that was an interesting idea, ripe with potential, let down by poor execution, I just couldn’t grasp the reasons for bringing this to the stage.
Spotted in the audience on the night I was in: Mark Lawson, Lionel Shriver (who of course wrote the similarly-themed We Need To Talk About Kevin) and the Scottish chap with the lime green turban whose name escapes me, so I’m guessing this will be under discussion on Newsnight Review on Friday.