Love With A Capital 'L'

Love With A Capital 'L'

Oran Mor, Glasgow

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Mary Brennan

Pie eaten, pint quaffed and the play on-stage is keen to serve up some chewy issues.

The office interior, with a huge desk dominating the set, harks back to 1929 when the BBC was the British Broadcasting Company, speaking to the nation across radio waves only. Sir John Reith is Director General, exerting autocratic control over matters of morality - both public and private - while his Head of Talks Hilda Matheson is challenging his beliefs on appropriate broadcast material by having Harold Nicolson and his wife Vita Sackville-West discuss what makes a perfect marriage.

Given that Hilda and Vita were having an affair, and Harold was having fun with various chaps, the couple's advice is like a red rag to the bullish Reith. No - don't say 'red'. That smacks of bolshevism, another of his betes noirs.

In the course of Tony Cox's first stage play - a co-production with Edinburgh's Traverse and Perth Theatre, directed by Hamish Pirie - the collision between Reith and Matheson sadly veers into tranches of indigestible jaw-jaw. Despite the sovereign efforts of Benny Young, all growly hectoring and lofty superiority as Reith, and Lesley Hart in brisk "New Woman" mode as Matheson, the characters never free themselves from the purlieus of academic debate.

Was Reith a closet homosexual, forever shackled to memories of a lad he loved and lost to a woman? Did this make his entire sojourn at the BBC an odyssey of canting hypocrisy? Did all the angels on the head of this very small pin pay their licence fee? Frankly, it's hard to care or be interested in raking over old bones especially when they're given such a dusty treatment.

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