Antiwords

★★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 12 Aug 2015

Observe the bar-room bore: old, bald and fed up with the world. "Have a beer!" he insists, slamming a bottle on the table, his legs manspread to the max. Faster than you can say "I’m driving", two sloppily poured pints appear, foaming over the lip. He lifts his mask and, beneath it, a pretty young woman downs the drink for him, polishing it off with a cute little burp.

Inspired by Vaclav Havel’s one-act play Audience, which marked the first appearance of his self-satirising grouchy playwright Vanek, Antiwords is a dumbshow of dumb masculinity.

These two old sods—one alpha and uncouth, the other timidly tipping pints away in secret—get steadily, messily sloshed and kvetch about the world. One slinks to the toilet; the other boogies. Their suits are as oversized as their big, bronze masks, which combine the stateliness of public statues with the air of overgrown toddlers ready to tip over.

Physically, it’s beautifully observed: all backslaps and ball-scratching. Their blank eyes catch all the sad self-awareness of bitter, old drunkards and there’s a strong sense of rhythm and repitition, as beer after beer goes down the hatch.

It’s just as much about the two actresses though, getting giddy (and gassy) for real. If they make boozing look adorable—cheeks reddening, eyes watering, hiccups hiccoughing—by the end they’re broken and belching, trying not to throw up as the lights fade like a slow torture. In that moment, you realise that no-one’s immune: age, bitterness, loneliness awaits us all. In time, we are all bar-room bores.