Monday, 9 May 2016

Auden's Paid on Both Sides performed

Last night I attended my first ever performance of an Auden play. There's 5/6 to choose from. All rarely performed. They are a challenge to do. Paid on Both Sides on the hard side, Hadrian's Wall probably the easiest. Was it worthwhile? You bet. The energy and drive Prudhoe's Sixth Form dramatic students put in was powerful. With people in all corners, things happening everywhere, it was an immersive experience. If you approach this work expecting to understand it all, you won't "get" it. It is a wild, even haphazard romp.A ripping yarn, a reiver's tale written by somone who understood our Borderlands and their heritage: "Some say that handsome raider still at large, A terror to the Marches, in truth is love" . Despite the drive of love, this was a broken society, crashed out: if you want to get a feeling for what the inter-war period and specifically the roaring twenties was like down to the actualness of 1928, then this is powerful stuff. This was chaos envisaged for a country house charade. A place of toffs and public school boys, drunkenness, ordinary people trying to go about their business, all conducted under menace. And it does not have a happy ending. It did not have a happy start "For where are Basley who won the Ten, Dickon who tarted the house". Dead Sedburgh School boys from World War One?

The performers offered a warm up act reprising (and singing) their way through some short better known pieces of Auden. One choice was especially apposite September 1st 1939 "the low dishonest decade". A poem Auden distanced himself from, but one people keep returning to. Because it is appropriate. 20 years of "peace" became another World War in which millions died. I have just been reading about the awfulness of Yugoslavia then (not in the 1990s). The power of the ancient rivalry, the feud that would not let go, overwhelmed ordinary lovers by the million.

I always think that all work read or understood by viewers acquires its own interpretation (what the writer means is in an odd way secondary). Approach Paid on Both Sides determined to take what you need and not to try to fathom all of Auden's allusions. Respond to its energy, remember the tragedy that composed it. Remember our landscape and its own tragedies behind it. For a well respected understanding of the work, John Fuller's discussion in W. H. Auden: A Commentary is recommended. Two more chances to see this performed this week. See .