Thursday, July 10, 2008

The return of one-act plays

In The Times, Benedict Nightingale ponders a revival of one-act plays.
[Harold] Pinter's A Slight Ache [running for six performances at the National Theatre from 21 July] should last little more than 40 minutes, but, with Simon Russell Beale and Clare Higgins as the edgy couple at its centre, it's likely to exercise our mental muscles more than most plays three times its length.

I won't call A Slight Ache a playlet, because I once described one of Pinter's later pieces as that, provoking the dramatist to write a pained letter to The Times declaring that even though it was short it was still a play. And he was quite right. Some of our finest dramatists, Pinter among them, have found subtlety, richness, depth and, yes, size in the one-act form. To equate length with quality is to prefer a big dish of sausage and mash to a small one of smoked salmon - or We Will Rock You to A Slight Ache or those exquisite laments for wasted lives, Beckett's Not I and That Time.

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