BBC Radio 3, 1 December 2013
Set in ancient China, In the
Depths of Dead Love concerned a banished poet Chin (Richard E. Grant), who has bought a well into which local people
throw themselves as a means to end their lives. The 'business' (if it can be described as such) proves highly successful
until the beautiful noble woman Hasi (Francesca Annis) appears. She wants to end her life in the same way, but Chin
- perhaps for the first time - think that perhaps this is not the most suitable course of action ...
In truth the ancient Chinese
setting proved nothing more than a convenient pretext for dramatist Barker and director Peter Kavanagh to explore the nature
of human action and how we make sense of it through language. Much of the play centred - in a fashion reminiscent of
Waiting for Godot - on what circumstances (if any) would prompt Hasi to commit suicide, or whether she was actually
looking for something else in her life. Chin's interventions served to render her even more indecisive. Meanwhile
Chin spent a lot of time reflecting on the relationship between language and action: should we take more care in choosing
the ways in which we express ourselves, so as to render our meaning clearer, and therefore promote greater understanding between
human beings? If that could be achieved, then perhaps there might be no need for anyone to want to throw themselves
in the well.
While In the Depths of Dead Love
was quite static in terms of action, Barker's talent for language shone through. The play had a quite astonishing capacity
to sustain our attention, making us reflect on the nature of words - not only in terms of meaning but sound as well.