MiniReview: "Canary" by Jonathan Harvey

Your moustache looks fine today, John. So, what is this thing you're reviewing?

Thanks for the compliment. Well, it's a play, produced in the UK, script published by Methuen Drama in 2010. To be precise, I'm reviewing the script, not the play (which I've never seen).


What is it about?

It's an epic overview of gay life in England from the 1960s to the present day, a portrait created through interwoven fictional stories, actual historical characters (Margaret Thatcher, Mary Whitehouse), and fantasy sequences.


What did I think?

It's well worth reading. Actually, I'm kind of glad I read it rather than seeing it onstage, because I found the story a tad over-complicated, jumping back and forth in time and between different storylines and characters who appear at different periods at different ages. I was glad I was able to flip back a few pages from time to time to re-situate myself. (An aside: I find this kind of over-complexity to be a characteristic of subsidized theatre, and one I don't really appreciate when I'm sitting in a theatre but don't mind when I'm reading a play. For the record, I think Shakespeare works better on the page than on the stage too, so this isn't necessarily a negative criticism.) It's well researched and deeply felt, and very funny and absurd at times. The playwright says in the introduction that it was an ambitious project, and it is maybe overly ambitious, but that's not a crime. For anyone interested in recent gay history (specifically British), it's a milestone piece of dramatic writing. It's very moving, and I learned a lot.


What rating would you give it (using the Michelin-guide 3-star system)?:

2 stars (worth a detour--if you're interested in gay history, otherwise 1 star)

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