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Steven Berkoff plays from the east end


 

 

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East Elegy for the East End and its energetic waste

compass

Donate a Snout Mike We'll threaten and murder, connive and rob/ The law's on our side/ We'll pay the slobs Now you know our names What's a proletariat? A geezer who lassoes goats on the Siberian mountain I'll descend on thee like a moon probe, thou planet of delights fleshy But what's the future lads for us

Berkoff says that East was "written in a mood of exaltation and frivolity. It was an experiment in playwriting and an attempt to be bold". East is one of Berkoff´s most enjoyable plays and is a good place to start to get to know Berkoff´s works.

Steven Berkoff East with Sylv  Steven Berkoff motorcycle in East

It is episodic and much like the Falstaff scenes from Shakespeare's Henry plays. Les and Mike and later the other members of their family tell stories building up a picture of their life.  The language uses London slang and verse.  The London 1999 production was directed by Berkoff and demonstrated the humour in the play, and the visual aspects which reading the play only hints at. The motorbike scene was one of the most beautiful theatre moments ever. There is a video available of this staging.

For a summary of East and guide to the language used click here.

 

 

West or welcome to dalston junction

Breathless, I was aghast Compass

a lasso of love encircles her like I was pursued by wolves who can undo what has to be done this mouse has eaten my pie miss/ the waitress says: what and its still alive stars hide your fires/ let night not see my dark and deep desires no more terrified cats his heart will beat a terrible drum/ and want to burst to spread some numbing death relieving darkness

Berkoff says West is about courage, the courage to live according to your spirit, and not the guidelines laid down for you by others, to be true to yourself which may involve alienating others, but your truth is worth pursuing since it defines who you are.  The play was commissioned by the BBC but they rejected it. Berkoff says "I had problems with this play and it was indeed my ´bonus´ play, since I had no desire or will to write it".

Steven Berkoff West

Very similar to East with the same characters, it would be interesting to see both on a double bill. West leads up to a gang fight, and on the way the leaders rally the troops like Henry V "those that do not fight this day will think themselves accursed they were not there".  David Schwimmer of Friends said his most memorable theatrical experience was "playing Mike in West... with my theatre company in Chicago".

The play is based on Beowulf.  In Delinquent Berkoff describes an incident in his youth "So a 'public' battle was arranged by the heavies for their amusement and one night in early spring, when it was still light we all walked to Clapton Pond...  Yes, it did feel like a tale of ancient chivalry: Beowulf waiting for the Beast".

You can watch part of West on the download page

 

Decadence

Four faces

unzip your ears and let me flood them with verbs the tape unwinds the story starts afresh dead herrings of past hurts quiet as death still as stone no you can't say those nasty words on stage/ you'll have the Tory mothers in a spitting rage his shrunken shark shame about the cat please Maggie put your money where your mouth is a torrent of lords, barons and knights liberation? this is it girl!

Another Steve, played by Berkoff. Two actors playing two couples in a story of excess, a play based on hatred of the well-off. At times similar to Monty Pythons Mr Creosote (and one scene very similar). The verse dialogue works well and the movement from one couple to the other (played by the same people) is effective.
 

When Rhys Muldoon was asked "Of all your roles, which has been most fun?" his answer was Decadence (from Sydney Morning Herald, 24 Sept 2011 here).

 

 

Greek

Who are you, little man? Dagger There's still a plague around this city...some evil deed that has not purged itself

A modern Oedipus. Berkoff calls it a mirror to the warts and sores of our septic isle.

Steven Berkoff Greek
photo from the opera of Greek

The first half is similar to East and West, with mime and chorus mixed with rhyme as the story is established. The second half has the husband and wife comfortably in place as the consequences unravel.


photos from the 2011 Scena Theatre Greek

 

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