A stranger visits a barber. He has, he says, “bad news” to impart – in fact the news is so bad that the adjective “bad” barely suffices. For 70 minutes the two men talk.
The basis of Howard Barker’s play may seem modest, but, in its theatrical ambition, its tragic depth and its profound, dense use of language, it is a “bigger” drama than most new work for the stage these days.
Contrary to the sanitisation of events by CNN, Barker restores to catastrophe its primal hold over us.
The visitor (played wonderfully by Duncan Bell) is dispassionate, even cynically enthralled by the way the barber is able to ascertain the details of the unfolding crisis.
This deft production shames the London theatre establishment which turned its back on Barker long ago.
The Dying of Today
Arcola Theatre, London
Until 22 November