Alan Ayckbourn on stage in the Netherlands

This video is a trailer about the play Man of the moment, by Alan Ayckbourn.

Alan Ayckbourn‘s 1988 play Man of The Moment was on stage in Warenar theatre in Wassenaar, the Netherlands, on 9 November 2013.

Ayckbourn‘s play is about media obsession with celebrities; sometimes, people famous for being famous. Its première was at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, England.

The celebrity character in the play, Vic Parks, has a criminal past. This is a theme, quite often recurring both in literature and in real life. Sometimes, literary characters with such pasts are depicted as being sympathetic; like Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo‘s Les Miserables. Sometimes, they are depicted in a less sympathetic light, like Nicholas Bulstrode in George Eliot‘s Middlemarch. While being a ‘respectable’ banker, his past as receiver of stolen goods comes to light. In the non-fictional Netherlands, Ms Mabel Wisse Smit evolved, without people knowing about her earlier life, from “gangster moll” to royal family princess.

Ayckbourn’s Vic character has some features in common with British TV personality Sir Jimmy Savile. While Savile had a public image as a jolly friend of children, honoured by the British Thatcher government, the Vatican etc., he had a hidden side as abuser of children. That criminal side of Savile, about which insiders knew, only became known to the general public after his death.

Alan Ayckbourn in 1988 very probably did not know about Savile’s crimes. Though he, like Savile, lived in Scarborough. So, Savile very probably was not the inspiration for Vic. Vic is not a child abuser. His crimes were bank robbing, and severely wounding a young bank employee woman during a robbery attempt. Vic the TV personality, contrary to Savile, does not hide his criminal past. Quite the contrary, his references to it, accompanied by saying he has reformed and warning children not to commit crimes, contribute to his popularity. However, the play shows he still has an unpleasant side. In Vic’s villa in southern Spain, where the scene of the play is set, he bullies his wife. He treats his two Spanish employees like slaves. And he makes the life of his nanny (an uncritical fan of Vic’s media personality who had been overjoyed by her TV hero becoming her boss) hell; to such an extent that she attempts suicide.

The Dutch translation and the theatre group had changed some of the author’s British elements in the play to Dutch elements. Cindy, Vic’s little daughter, is a role in the original play; but not in the Wassenaar performance. The name Vic Parks was changed to Dutch Marco Mink. The only name which did not change was Trudy; Marco’s wife. The others all changed: a little (Marta, the servant, to Martha); or much (Sharon Giffen, the nanny, to Kiki). Ruy, the male Spanish gardener in the English version, became female Rosa in the Warenar theatre. And Vic’s male manager Kenny became female manager Bep.

The Wassenaar performance was by theatre group Mimicri (which has a leaf insect as its symbol; and which played in this theatre before).

Compared to other Ayckbourn plays, Man of the Moment is not performed often. This is because a swimming pool has a big role in the play, creating problems in many theaters. In Wassenaar this was solved by a bathtub with 2000 liter water.

In the play, a central character is cynical TV show presenter Jill Rillington (Astrid Barend in Dutch).

Jill/Astrid bullies her TV crew a bit similarly to the way Vic/Marco treats his employees; as this video shows.

Ms Rillington tries to save her career by damaging Vic’s (Marco’s); by showing how violent his criminal past really was. To achieve that, she wants a spectacular televised meeting between Marco and ex-bank employee Arend (Douglas in English). Arend stopped armed bank robber Marco seventeen years ago, a confrontation which led to Marco’s gun injuring Arend’s colleague and, later, wife Ietje (Nerys in English) for life. After that, Arend had a short period of media fame as a heroic crime fighter. However, he soon was forgotten. While, on the other hand, Vic became a rich famous media personality. Jill/Astrid expects that Arend will feel jealous and angry about villa owner Vic.

However, in the play things happen in a completely unexpected way for Jill. Arend refuses to play the role he is supposed to. So, Jill has to fear there will be an uneventful TV show.

Toward the end, events take a still far more spectacular turn than Jill/Astrid expected originally. Vic/Marco dies in his swimming pool. Arguably, three people (Arend, Trudy and Kiki) are guilty in this death. However, Jill/Astrid’s TV crew was not present to film this spectacle. So, Ms Jill Rillington decides to have actors play a climax, about the unexpected accidental death of media hero Vic/Marco.

The last lines of the play are a TV floor manager, asking the audience to applaud (for the untrue TV version). The Wassenaar audience did so enthusiastically for the performance.

1 thought on “Alan Ayckbourn on stage in the Netherlands

  1. Pingback: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, new film reviewed | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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