Слободкина Ольга
"The Milk Van" Makes Stop at Moscow Art Theatre

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  • © Copyright Слободкина Ольга (olga_slobodkina@mail.ru)
  • Размещен: 03/09/2006, изменен: 10/12/2022. 5k. Статистика.
  • Статья: Публицистика
  • Аннотация:
    Published by "The Moscow Tribune", Oct. 15, 1996

  •    Williams' drama, written in 1964, covers the last two days in the life of Mrs Gofort, a fabulously rich lady living in seclusion on a tiny island-fortress in the Mediterranean. On the brink of death, Mrs Gofort dictates her memoirs to her secretary, Blacky, as if trying to breathe life into the long-gone events. She is in fact sucking the life out of the young woman by being horrible to her.
       Mrs Gofort is visited by Christopher Flanders, a 34-year-old man whose chosen "profession" is to spend the very last period of rich ladies' lives with them and see them off to the Other World - at a party somebody pours champagne on his head, baptising him the Angel of Death.
       The image of Christopher Flanders is multi-layered and metaphorical, as is the whole drama. At times the Moscow Art Theatre version makes you wonder whether Chris does his "job" for money or whether it is his professional calling. At other moments he appears part of the old lady's imagination still starving for sex. Or maybe he is the allegory of Death himself coming to Mrs Gofort in the form of a young man to prerare her and make her departure more comfortable?
       During her last two days Mrs Gofort is also visited by Marquise Condotti. The tension and interaction between the two old ladies makes this part of the play become life itself, but in the heighly artistic form. Especially compelling is the scene with the two sitting by a doorway. They are both dressed up to the nines - Marquise Condotti is wearing a long and elegant black dress while Mrs Gofort has on a flamboyant Kabuki costume. The doorway collapses into the blackness, into infinity - it seems they are sitting in the doorway of Death, so solemn and incomprehensible. And yet with the doorway of Death right behind them the ladies discuss mundane trifles.
       However, when left alone, Mrs Gofort asks herself the most important question: what is the meaning of life? And makes the sad observation that people rush around doing whatever just to avoid this issue, afraid to ask themselves that question. This monologue becomes the metaphorical climax of the preformance.
       When dictating her memoirs into the dictophone, Mrs Gofort recollects her romance with her last husband, Alex. He seems to have been the one man who melted the crust of alienation around her heart. She remembers him with tenderness, describing him with lofty, poetic words.
       Another clue to the meaning of the play is Mrs Gofort's recollections of her husbands' deaths. She had four of them and "saw all of them off", perceiving their Death as their liberation. From petty human fears and desires? From responsibility and worries? From the fetters of the body?
       In any case in this sophisticated psychological drama Williams touches upon not only the horizontal layer of life, so to speak, - careers, relationships and so on, but also the vertical, spiritual layer - the Last Great Change, the Exit to the Other World. The drama is saturated with metaphorical meaning, existential motifs and poetic implications.
       American critics wrote that The Milk Van is very personal, reflecting all the shadowy sides of the playwright's life, his crises both as a person and an artist. Williams commented in his memoirs that, directly or indirectly, any work of an artist should be personal and reflect the emotional climate in which its creator is living.
       The play was not a great success in the USA, but years later The Milk Van won over European stages.
       In 1968, director Joseph Losey made a screen version called Boom, starring Elizabeth Taylor as Mrs Gofort, Richard Burton as Chris Flanders and English dramatist Noel Coward as the Marquise.
       The Moscow Art Theatre is the first Russian theatre to stage this play, directed by V. Dolgachyov. Tatyana Lavrova's acting is brilliant - energetically histerical, expressive and at times touching. She is both the framework of the performance and its swan song. The role of Marquise Condotti, nichnamed "witch", is wonderfully performedby N. Gulyayeva.
       The set by Boris Messerer also deserves high praise. The stage and the adjoining walls are designed in the form of a trapezium and are covered by blinds. Contrasting with the glamorous staircase and its sense of worldly luxury, on either end of the stage stands an air conditioner fan impassively turning its chromeplated head. Maybe they represent an element of the eternal, of the intransient against the background of the meaningless rush?
      "The Moscow Tribune", Tuesday, Oct. 15, 1996

  • © Copyright Слободкина Ольга (olga_slobodkina@mail.ru)
  • Обновлено: 10/12/2022. 5k. Статистика.
  • Статья: Публицистика

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