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Inherit the Wind

October 19, 2009

Kevin Spacey stars as the defence attorney in the theatrical rendition of the Scopes Monkey Trial, Inherit the Wind, and, I tell you, he has the time of his life playing this part! From the height of my seat C21 authority (that’s first row, as central as you can get with this play, and £12 for under 25s – delightful stroke of luck), I can testify to the electrifying power of his performance, and the smile he carries throughout the trial scenes, his character’s smile of course, but that I think shows some of his own delight.

Side by side with him in this titanic performance is David Troughton, just as excellent. A lot of the supporting cast was also very good: I was impressed by Mark Dexter as the Baltimore Suns mighty pen, and by Sidney Livingstone as a local farmer and member of the jury. I also liked the set, very deep and with movable parts, yet pleasantly simple. What really made it come to life was the amount of people on stage – apparently 41 between actors and extras, plus one monkey. Some critics (see here for a good summary of various reviews) thought that the number of people – and the singing involved – made Sir Trevor Nunn’s direction a little bit too musical-like. On the contrary I enjoyed the singing at the scene changes as it made the play slick and seamless and also added to the whole atmosphere of the piece. And as for there being a lot of people on the stage, it added great colour to the story: for instance, when the prosecution attorney launches himself in an angry tirade after the end of the trial, a little boy gets closer to the defendant, his school-teacher, but his mother grabs him by the shoulders, pulls him away and scolds him. The play is full of these little hidden scenes, which makes it great if you watch it with someone else, so you can compare notes at the end!

I also found the theme particularly compelling. Not only it seems that almost one century later the debate about evolution and creationism in schooling is still alive in parts of the USA, but I found some resonances with the current situation in Italy and its debate about the teaching of Catholic education in public schools. And besides, a play about a man’s right to think for himself will always strike a chord, especially in today’s world of freedoms given and freedoms hidden from view.

‘Inherit the Wind’ is at the Old Vic until December 20th.

For further reading I suggest this review.

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