Stations of the Cross by Israel Horowitz

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"Stations of the Cross" by Israel Horovitz (1998). Dir. Ned Chaillet. Perf. Horovitz, Nicky Henson, Marcia Warren. BBC Radio 4 Extra, 25 Mar. 2015

"Stations of the Cross" can be interpreted as a travelogue, a view of contemporary Britain by an American similar to that of Bill Bryson's "Notes from a Small Island" (1995). David (Israel Horovitz) travels across the United Kingdom by train, encounters a series of eccentrics and views them sympathetically but not uncritically. They include a solicitor and a series of other miscellaneous characters. Ned Chaillet's production makes atmospheric use of train sounds (the clackety-clack of wheels on the track, the muffled sounds of station staff announcing the destinations as well as the buffet service, and the periodic slamming of doors). The cumulative effects suggests a world in transience - people moving from place to place as if looking for some sense of security, whether physical or emotional.

On a deeper note, Horovitz's poetic drama embodies the author's search for meaning in the wake of a bereavement. It's not the characters he encounters who are in need of security, but David himself. The world around him is haunted by death and destruction; the loss of an individual prompts him to reflect on his own mortality. The dialogue is written in blank verse and is particularly intense in structure; sometimes we are encouraged to listen to the sound if not the sense of words. The action moves slowly, even if it describes the rapid movement of a train traveling, as the author keeps pausing for reflection on his feelings at one particular moment.

"Stations of the Cross" can be described as an experience as much as a drama; well worth listening to, but requiring intense attention.