a few good men ii / some men become what they are born for

I’ve been busy. The world has been busier. Last weekend I was in London (right by The Bush Theatre), visiting the (unbelievably huge) Westfield Centre, eating gorgeous Thai food and contemplating yet again the phenomenon by which anyone visiting London from Oxford immediately feels like they’re ‘on holiday’. The meal we had at Jasmine London was also about 500x better than the dreadful meal I had this week at Old Orleans (NOT my choice – committee social). We’d all been hoping to have cocktails – a bit difficult when the bar’s lacking a blender, mint, and, er, tequila.

This week I’ve also had two articles come out, on the same show – they’re not online yet but soon will be. Amusingly, my first night review for A Few Good Men has been extensively – if selectively – quoted by the production’s marketing team. For example, in my original review, I wrote

Hoare clearly wants to direct the biggest and best show in Oxford’s best venue. Chanya Button’s high-profile 2007 staging of Angels in America in the Oxford Union had similar ambitions, but revealed a disconnect between venue and theatre. AFGM has similar problems.


With its watchtower, sentinels and multiple rakes, Lili Carr’s set is stunning. The problem, though, thanks to low-level lighting and the frequent use of gauze, is that while the set inhabits the Playhouse stage more snugly than any show in the last three years, the actors can’t inhabit the set. Most of the action takes place downstage, crammed into two split-level spaces stuffed with furniture; most of the time, I felt as though I was watching a play about two tables and some frontcloth.

In the press blurb version, this becomes

‘As might be expected from Hoare, the production is professionally ambitious and audacious… Hoare clearly wants to direct the biggest and best show in Oxford’s best venue…’


‘Lili Carr’s set is stunning’

— well, yes it is. Well-designed, well-built, but badly furnished and badly used.

The production really is very good, though, so do book while you can. Tomorrow, Cherwell is publishing a column I wrote on voice in the theatre – it builds on thoughts I’ve been having about A Few Good Men and the direction in which I’d like to take my own work. I must admit that (having read what I’m liking to) it’s been edited almost beyond recognition (I’m sure I never said ‘wankery’, although I did say ‘shit and violence’), but look forward to the print version.

And, then, of course, the world changed forever. I was terrified something would go wrong, but it didn’t. The euphoria has worn off enough for me to enjoy The Onion’s take on it with a wry smile – Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress, but I, er, still keep crying about it. Jesse Jackson crying, Stephen Colbert crying (my MSt group and I maintain he cried), Kenya declaring yesterday a public holiday (one Kenyan woman has named her baby twins Barack and Michelle) and, above all, this poem.* I don’t think anything could be more appropriate:

‘Sometimes’ by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.

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