Friday, August 18, 2006
The poster of a Munchkin clutching an over sized bottle of whiskey while peering up Dorothy's skirt summarizes the irreverent attitude of Babylon Heights. If the land of Oz lies over the rainbow, the spotlight here is on its far from pretty underbelly of lurid sexual violence, personal betrayal and drug dependency. Describing the Wizard of Oz as an 'indispensable part of our cultural heritage in the west,' Welsh's production with the Attic Studio, exposes the nadir where personal ambition is exploited by major studios, as humiliation and self abasement is forced on four Munchkin extras.
Welsh has spent much of his literary energy piercing the bubbles of comfortable modern fables. Just as Renton's 'choose life speech' in Trainspotting ruptured the materialist values of Thatcher's Britain, so too does this latest stage project with Dean Cavanagh roll a hand grenade under the door of popular American culture. Judy Garland's allusion to tales of drunken sex parties and drug abuse at the Culver Hotel, where the nearly two hundred Munchkin actors were segregated from the main cast, created one of Hollywood's most persistent urban myths.
The best review of the play I've found: Ozmosis: by Chloe Veltman in the SF Weekly
An associated press review all over the net: Jill Lawless 'Munchkins run amok'
Other thoughts: I've been meaning to write something on Irvine Welsh for some time now, I'd even concieved the idea of writing my thesis for Equality Studies using him as a platform to explore the changing nature of class identity in post-modern society. Much of the coverage around his latest works have stunned me with their lack of any semblence of intellectual rigour. On one hand the British Tory press have attempted to re-cuperate him as a Cameroon supporter despite his own admission in one of the Sunday culture supplements, maybe the Sunday Business Post (you know how they all blur together..) where he stated he 'wouldn't vote for Cameroon in a month of fucking Mondays.' What I find interesting about Welsh is that behind his raver hedonism and acid casualty cynicism, a lot of his work chimes in with a broader left wing conciousness and the creation of popular narratives of class. For example the TV play 'Dockers' along with Jimmy McGovern, played an integral role in popularising the Liverpool Dockers dispute.
Something I've noticed among a lot of the angsty lefty young men I went to college with was a shared early teen propensity to both Irvine Welsh and The Manic Street Preachers. Lines like ' the difference between me and those fucking wimpy arsehole socialists. I don't want the Tories out, I want them fucking dead. Just because I've got a bus pass doesn't mean I'm part of the system. An anarchist with a bus pass is still a fucking anarchist' from Smart Cunt have always stuck with me as an articulation of a non-dogmatic socialism rooted in the social realities of what he calls elsewhere the 'long dark nights of late capitalism.'
This is a socialism increasingly needing an expression on the level Welsh could aspire to. The rant on the how getting up early to sell a couple of papers in a shopping centre is not being the best way to chill out after raving' drips with the bitterness of one faced with the destruction of proud working class histories at the hands of Thatcherism and the futile games of the Trotskyist left. There are more extracts from him posted at a discussion at Meanwhileatthebar. I'm interested in what Sinead has to say about both the play and his new book.
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Time and work have gotten in the way of me writing reviews of the play and novel, but I was disappointed by both, even though I've been a fan of Welsh for years. I was particularly disappointed by the play, which seemed like a great idea on paper.
I thought it had so much satirical potential that comes with Welsh's anarchy and energy but instead it was (I thought) quite lacking.
Had the play been seriously edited - and I mean if it were to lose half an hour - it would have packed a more dramaturgical punch.
Instead it meandered flabbily along and it was genuinely hard to stay interested, particularly in the first act.
With the book, I think it might be more about how I feel about Welsh these days. Having read Trainspotting in 1994 (a gift from a Scottish man), I hoovered up everything he wrote and loved most of it, but I think I'm just a bit weary about many of topics he covers and the way he approaches them. It feels as if his relevance as waned, but then that's very much a personal view.
Your point about the "bitterness of one faced with the destruction of proud working class histories at the hands of Thatcherism" is very relevant to the protagonist in the Bedroom Secrets. The difference is that he has joined the establishment, has done the blue collar yoke and works in an office, but still he is thwarted by (class?) feelings of inadequacy which fuel his drug-fuelled boozing and ultimately lead to the Machiavellian thrust of the plot.
Thanks for the heads-up on the review, it's great to see arts stuff like this on an Irish blog.
About Soundtracksforthem specialises in iconoclastic takes on culture, politics, and more shite from the underbelly of your keyboard. A still-born group blog with a recent surge of different contributers but mainly maintained by James R. Big up all the contributers and posse regardless of churn out rate: Kyle Browne, Reeuq, Cogsy, Chief, X-ie phader/Krossie, Howard Devoto, Dara, Ronan and Mark Furlong. Send your wishes and aspirations to antropheatgmail.com
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