The View from Here: Four Plays Inspired by Short Films

Contact Us

BBC World Service, 28 February 2009
Initiatives such as this one, that inspired these four plays, co-sponsored by the BBC in association with the Slade School of Art, are rightly regarded as A Good Thing - particularly when the institutions concerned are financed by central government. Any idea that involves representatives from different nations, and incorporates them in a framework promoting cultural understanding, is highly likely to obtain official approval as well as substantial funding.
As I listened to The View from Here, I couldn't help but think that the project had been inititated with these objectives in mind. This portmanteau of four short plays focused on cultural differences; the first (by Katie Hims) looked at views of death in a mixed marriage between a Briton and an Israeli. The second (by the Ugandan Charles Mulekwa) concentrated on a fisherman encouraged to leave his profession and fight a political campaign for local elections. As time passed, however, he understood how politics was merely a front for self-interest; compared to the lasting values of his domestic life, it lacked substance. The third playlet (set in Hong Kong) concentrated on a young family seduced by the promise of riches and unlimited prosperity in a new business and/or tourist centre. As they discovered to their cost, however, a new consumer culture cannot be created at the expense of older, traditional cultures: the past invariably casts a shadow over the present. One of the family's children was abducted by a ghost from the past in retribution for what the developers had done to the traditional culture. The fourth playlet took the form of a confessional set in urban Australia, as the protagonists described their responses to a fatal stabbing in an Asian-owned convenience store. As the drama unfolded, it became clear that none of them wanted to face events; they tried to divert their minds on to more mundane thoughts such as relationships, food or an i-pod. The play suggested that consumer culture so dominated people's lives that they could no longer face up to reality - everything had to be transmuted into a panglossian fantasy in which all was for the best.
The last three plays all set up interesting situations, but the dramatists (Mulekwa, Dino Mahoney, Simon Wu, Noelle Janaczewska) lacked time and space to develop them. Producer Marian Nancarrow seemed so concerned to fit as much as possible into a limited one-hour time slot that plot and characterization were rather neglected. The View from Here resembled a wine-tasting in which we were given samples of vintage port but had them taken away just as we were about to enjoy them.