Rewind to 1997. Britpop is at its height, the Internet is about to seep into people’s lives, cameras still have film rolls. Men and women are set apart by different motives and desires, but united by a ubiquitous need for love. And love is restlessly needy.
Patrick Marber’s play Closer reflects the sexual mores of the moment, a time when anything seemed possible.
The UK’s pre-9/11 society was thriving on a decade of economic boom and rampant optimism. The cold war was over, countries seemed to grow closer year by year, world peace was at our doorsteps. The cinemas were filled with comedic flicks on conflicting perceptions of love and sexuality. And Closer is pretty much a product of its age in portraying men and women who fail to find a common denominator, both spiritually and sexually.
Doesn’t it still sound as pertinent as ever – our strive for intimacy that the opposite sex doesn’t get?
A critic at the time (Michael Billington) described Closer as a powerful “portrayal of the daisy-chain of love and lust.” Tom Bailey and Hannes Flor – the stage directors of this latest production by English Theatre Leipzig at Lindenau’s Neues Schauspiel – convincingly remind us that Marber’s work is much more than a play trapped in the 90s.
The cast fits the characters like a glove. There’s the waif-like Alice, seducing us with her French accent and alluring smiles. And there’s Dan, her boyfriend. He’s an obituary writer and would-be novelist who is also attracted to Anna. She’s a photographer specialized in wistful portraits of sad strangers. And while Anna is equally drawn to Dan, she marries a dermatologist: Larry, a money-driven runt and sensual egomaniac.
You can tell it’s all headed for conflict, and complicated it does get. But Marber’s play is more than a mere comedy of sexual juxtapositions, as it captures the merciless flair engulfed between the sexes.
Men are exposed as being barely able to make any sincere emotional commitment, obsessed with their own hedonistic need for love, and completely ignorant of how women feel. Women are caught up in the struggle between traditional gender roles and their very own pursuit of happiness.
None of the characters are able to contain the evil spirits of emotional pain and anxiety summoned by the pact of intimate relationships.
Closer at Neues Schauspiel is just brilliantly executed. We cannot help but identify with every single one of all four characters. And how come we still have a bottomless capacity for suffering amid the turmoil of relationships?
You need to go see the play to find out for yourself.
Anna aka Sarah Mirren
Andrea Tabary as Alice
Robert Günschmann as Dan
Peter Hubbard as Larry
Hannes Flor – Stage Director
Tom Bailey – Stage Director