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Wednesday, September 21, 2011


(Darren King and Clare Mortimer)

Review by Margaret von Klemperer of the production at the 2011 Witness Hilton Arts Festival. (Courtesy of The Witness)

Steven Berkoff’s world view is a bleak and disturbing one: his characters are the sad flotsam of modern society, and he dissects them mercilessly. He is no Alan Bennett, looking compassionately on the weaknesses of little lives.

In Master of the CafĂ© Society, Clare Mortimer and Darren King have adapted one of Berkoff’s short stories as a companion piece to their successful production of From My Point of View. Harry is an out-of-work actor, making ends meet by working in a gents’ outfitters and lusting after Doris, the char in his lodgings. He sees himself as Richard III or playing some other great role, while he measures inside legs, and he imagines that he can be a great lover. But the reality is rather different.

There are good performances from Mortimer and King, and there is the trademark Berkoff edginess, but the finished piece is less than the sum of its parts: we feel no empathy and are never made to care. Entertainment must do more than merely remind us that many of our fellow humans are ultimately losers. - Margaret von Klemperer