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Love of a Good Man


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A: Howard Barker Pf: 1978, Sheffield Pb: 1980 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Battlefield subsequently war cemetery, Passchendaele, Belgium, 1920 C: 11m, 2fTwo years after the end of the First World War, soldiers are still burying the dead in the mud of Passchendaele (scene of a disastrous British offensive in 1917). The site is visited by Edward, Prince of Wales, and by Hacker, an undertaker who will make money creating a war cemetery for the fallen. Mrs Toynbee, an attractive widow, comes with her daughter Lalage in search of her son Billy, who is ‘missing, presumed dead’. Hacker claims to have found his remains, and his mother kisses the headless body farewell, although the corpse is in fact that of a German soldier provided by an unscrupulous soldier Riddle. Colonel Hard recruits amongst the gravediggers for the Black and Tans to ‘hold the Empire together’ in Ireland. Lalage, who favours the new socialism where everyone is treated equally, threatens to denounce to the police her mother's plan to smuggle Billy's body home. The Prince of Wales opens the new cemetery and is tricked by Hacker into choosing Billy's supposed corpse to be the Unknown Warrior. Mrs Toynbee holds a seance, the mentally disturbed War Graves Commissioner Bride shoots himself, and the Prince of Wales declares his love for Mrs Toynbee. The cemetery completed, everyone returns to England – or Ireland.

A: Howard Barker Pf: 1978, Sheffield Pb: 1980 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Battlefield subsequently war cemetery, Passchendaele, Belgium, 1920 C: 11m, 2f

The grotesque humour of this powerful satire of the Establishment is reminiscent of Bond's Early Morning. It shows how the ‘love of a good man’ for his country can be exploited in the defence of Empire that led to the slaughter of millions in the First World War and will continue the killing in Ireland. Hacker sums it up memorably: ‘You people…yer gobs are clamped so tight on the tits of privilege, yer can't stop sucking even when the dugs are dry.’

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Howard Barker (b. 1946)


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