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Michael McClure The Beard

Directed by Nic Saunders
Music by Terry Riley
Jean Harlow (Victoria Yeates)
Billy The Kid (Christopher Daley)

The Old Red Lion Theatre, London 10 August 2006


This two-hander seduction scene has Jean Harlow and Billy The Kid "in eternity" wearing 'small beards of torn tissue paper'; why I know not? Daley lost most of his part way, and half a dozen pages of the repetitive script got seamlessly elided too on our night, so that it took only fifty minutes to reach climax...

This notorious poetry-play caused a furore, arrests and prosecutions in 1966, and became a landmark in censorship history, largely because of simulated sex at the end. Its current London revival scrapes into Musical Pointers by virtue of the musicality of McClure's poetry, framed by music of Terry Riley.

It is simply but evocatively mounted in the small Islington pub-theatre, with "night-blue backdrop and chaise-longue - - text delivered like music, driven by echoes and sounds both snarling and sensual" Rachel Halliburton (Time Out). Few of the words cannot be heard nowadays on the top of a bus, but some of the provocative thoughts may be more likely texed on mobile phones...

Well worth catching, and it may encourage others too to explore Michael McClure's poetry, generously available on his website, including the beginning of The Beard. The acting by Yeates and Haley was brilliant, riveting our attention unswervingly, and a Ghost Tantras - a film on Michael McClure is being created by Optic Nerve.

For fuller background see http://www.theatre14167.co.uk/upcoming.htm


© Peter Grahame Woolf