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Socialist Review, December 1993

Lee Humber


One man and his dog

From Socialist Review, No. 170, December 1993.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

One man
by Steven Berkoff

There are three separate parts to this new one man production from Berkoff. The first, Tell Tale Heart, is an adaptation from the master of horror, Edgar Allen Poe – a tale of terror, murder and madness presented with manic humour (sounds like one or two branch meetings I’ve been to).

The second, Actor, is a brilliantly observed and heartfelt piece on an actor’s search for work. It went down very well with the thespian audience that this master of technique and invention attracts.

But the funniest playlet is the final one, Dog. In it Berkoff plays an East End lager lout, and his dog Roy. Roy’s master is a racist but he has a ‘Paki mate’ who’s alright because he runs a garage that Roy’s master uses. To show that he’s not prejudiced Roy’s master changes a story about ‘a gang of six Pakis’ to one about ‘a gang of two Pakis, two Irish yobs and two Hasidic Jews out to cause some robbery and violence.’

Berkoff reflects the mixed nature of aspects of working class life with his picture of a crowd on the terraces at Millwall with black, white, men, women and gays standing next to one another shouting on their team.

The playlet is a sympathetic and affectionate portrayal of a semi-lumpen working class lad. When Roy’s master gets blind drunk he explains that where he lives he has two options on a Saturday night: go and get slaughtered or stay in and watch telly. It’s a far cry from Berkoff’s earlier Sink the Belgrano about the Falklands War, when the author had no explanation for war fever other than the popular nationalism of this sort of character.

One Man shows again that Berkoff is one of the most intelligent, witty and inventive artists currently around. Get to see it if at all possible.

One Man is at the Garrick Theatre London until January.

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