Overview

Magnificence


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

A: Howard Brenton Pf: 1973, London Pb: 1973 G: Pol. drama in 8 scenes S: Bare room, street, and living room, London, 1970s; college garden and river, Cambridge, 1970s C: 9m, 2fThree young men, Will, Jed, and Cliff, and two young women, Mary and Veronica, break into an unoccupied building to squat there. While Will suggests using vaguely anarchic slogans like ‘Seize the weapons of happiness’, the more hard-headed Veronica insists that they must draw attention to the homeless in London. An Old Man suddenly appears from a pile of newspapers in the corner. Slaughter the Bailiff breaks in to evict the squatters. In the ensuing mêlée, Mary, who is pregnant, gets kicked, and she loses her baby. Jed, Mary's husband, is imprisoned and comes out seeking revenge. Babs, an ex-Cabinet minister, visits his former lover, Cambridge don and Conservative politician Alice, and the two men go punting together on the river, where Babs, already terminally ill, dies. Jed is furious with Will's gestural politics and imagines he sees Lenin urging him to anger against capitalism. Jed and Will acquire some gelignite and decide to blow up Alice. The gelignite fails, and Alice bravely confronts Jed, even inviting him for a drink. Suddenly, the explosive ignites, and over the corpses of Alice and Jed, Cliff comments on the ‘waste’ of Jed's anger.

A: Howard Brenton Pf: 1973, London Pb: 1973 G: Pol. drama in 8 scenes S: Bare room, street, and living room, London, 1970s; college garden and river, Cambridge, 1970s C: 9m, 2f

Brenton, who famously spoke of tossing ‘petrol bombs through the proscenium arch’, here reflects the Situationists' angry desire to ‘disrupt the spectacle’. At the same time, by generating some sympathy for the elderly Conservative politician Alice and by showing the futility, first of the squatters' protest then of the political assassination, the play challenges the audience to consider more effective means of channelling the justified anger of the young. In an age of suicide-bombers, this drama still seems relevant.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


Reference entries
Authors

Howard Brenton (b. 1942)


Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.