Thursday, January 25, 2007

Have a nice day!

There is something audible about New York City that distinguishes its buzz from London: the conversation of strangers. New Yorkers seem to think the best thing two people can do is talk. It is their self evident way of showing they are friendly and more fundamentaly, that they are alive. And that’s why they talk to strangers—especially if they won’t be with them long, such as in an elevator or in a queue at the bank: to affirm life.

As such, it took me no time from landing at JFK yesterday evening to be reminded me of Samuel Beckett's play, Happy Days, which I endured (with as much enjoyment as an enema) earlier this week at the National Theatre. In contrast to the verbal diarrhoea of New York, it portrays life ridden with emotional constipation. Winnie, as played by Fiona Shaw, spends the entire 90 minutes of the play encased in a mound of earth - first to her waist and then to her neck. Her companion, Willie, appears infrequently, but Winnie never stops talking to herself and him throughout her predicament. He rarely answers or acknowledges her, but with a monosyllabic grunt. In many ways it is a portrayal familiar to many marriages, of paradise long lost, with the inhabitants holding on through the years for basic survival. Today's press reviews are here: The Guardian liked it (click here), and the Torygraph loved it (click here).

The basic plot revolves around the distance between loneliness and solitude. The age old of question of is somebody better than nobody, even if the somebody is in fact a nobody? Is a bad relationship better than no relationship because at least someone is there to witness, to confirm that you are alive? If so, wouldn't Winnie, and by extension us, be saved by a life where strangers utter the meaningless "Have a Nice Day" to strangers not because it matters, but because its absence does? The answer lies within each of us.

That's all from NYC for today. But until tomorrow, may I bid you to"Have a Nice Day."

Happy Days
National Theatre, South Bank
Until 1 March, Book tickets from £10 here

36 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always find it so insipidly irritating how NewYorkers speak to everybody like they are long lost mates. I don't want people a
talking to me for the sake of it. Sorry if that what upholds happiness that is even more tragic than anything.

5:52 pm  
Anonymous max said...

So did you like the play or not? I can't tell ... should we go and see it?

5:55 pm  
Anonymous greg said...

As a New Yorker I approach everyone except in Starbucks where it is a biased sample: asshole heaven.

5:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New Yorkers have lots of ways of being friendly that put non-New Yorkers off, such as the way we ask questions. When we meet someone, we think it’s nice to show interest by asking questions. Often we ask “machine-gun questions”: fast, with an unusually high or low pitch, in a clipped form, and often thrown in right at the end of someone else’s sentence, or even in the middle of it.

5:59 pm  
Anonymous Claire said...

Max - I think CS is saying a trip to New York is the answer not a depressing jolt of Beckett. But it's subject to your interpretation I guess. Press reviews are so positive though?!

6:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice one!
Don't stay in New York though. I will talk to you back home and may even wish you a happy day :-)

6:11 pm  
Anonymous dawnbysea said...

I heard Fiona Shaw the other day on Radio 4 and she was effusive about the message of this play and her role in bringing it to life.

I may have to see it if only for self-harm purposes. Have a fun time at home CS!

6:15 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I Love Fiona Shaw. I saw her at the Royal Court a few years ago and haven't recovered from the power of her performance. You sure do get around town from the South Bank to Manhattan in 1 week.

6:17 pm  
Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Welcome back to the US, CS. I'll keep this brief lest anyone suggest some Kaopectate for my diarrhoea of the mouth.

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Blogger Marie's Two Cents said...

You have a nice blog here also,

Thank's for stopping by mine :-)

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Blogger ems said...

Fiona Shaw was excellent. I loved it.

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Blogger beehive maiden said...

this topic reminds me of what happened on my walk to the Met the other day. i was listening to my ipod nano so i didn't hear what the older woman waiting to cross the street to me said for a moment. see, we were getting ready to cross when this ambulette rolled up way to close to the curb (and us) so she started stepping back and was humorously grumbling about the ambulette driver. i didn't hear exactly what she said and i didn't need to hear it. i just smiled at her with understanding. then we were on our separate ways. that's the beauty of chance encounters like this in ny - we have an understanding. we can communicate for 2 seconds yet feel as though we've been on the same wavelength for years. and in new york, we have.

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