Monday, 16 September 2013


Patrick Marber
London, Methuen, 2004, 123p

I needed a short break from reading teenage fiction - I think it was making my brain go a little mushy. Somehow, I ended up right at the other end of the scale, reading a play about love and adult relationships. 

I have been meaning to read the play of Closer since I first saw the film (and I would love to see the stage production!). I remember being completely enticed by the character, although such a small cast, and the language, which seemed simultaneously so simple and yet so complex. 

The play opens with Dan and Alice waiting in a hospital. Alice, a young, seemingly-confident drifter has been knocked down by a car, and Dan - stifled by etiquette but enchanted by Alice - has come to get her checked out. Over the course of the play, these two are joined by Anna, a negative woman who seems unable to work out what she wants, and Larry, a dermatologist full of anger and desire. Their interwoven love lives and losses are plotted over months and years. It is a story about human existence and relationships - about the need to be loved and the inability to find fulfillment. 

Central are the four characters, each rather unlikeable but fascinating. In their lives, there is a marvelously thin line between love and betrayal - they seem incapable of not hurting each other, mainly because they are so self-centred (with arguably the exception of Alice). But they are all carnal, desperate for affection and later for revenge. Most importantly, they are human, fallible, and increasingly aware of their own mortality.

Closer is an powerfully sensual play, as indicated by the title. Each of the characters professional lives revolved around the body, from the photographer to the stripper, the dermatologist to the obiturist. But part of that sensuality also comes from the dialogue, which is fast and sharp, angry and honest.

In the commentary that accompanies this particular version, Patrick Marber is quoted saying many people feel like this is their story. I think that is how I felt at first, before realising it is everyone's story. The feelings they experience and heartache they suffer has been experienced by everyone at sometime. I think that universality is why I love Closer.

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