Bizarre Love Triangle

Naomi and I went to see Treats at Malvern last week. I’d wanted to see this production ever since I found out that Little Billie Pipsqueak was in it and that I’d get to be in relatively close proximity to her. Sigh. Didn’t really know very much about it but was interested to see what Ms Piper would be like on stage and as she was to be joined by Kris Marshall and Laurence Fox I was keen to see the three of them lock horns. The trio worked very well together and the dynamic was good over throughout the duration. The story concerns Ann who has used Dave’s (Marshall) recent trip to abroad to get out of what, for her, must have been an oppressive and chronically demeaning relationship and she has kicked him out of her apartment and installed well-meaning and amiable but wholly-inadequate Patrick (a fantastic Laurence Fox). Now, Dave is an absolute bastard. Adopting the divide-and-conquer approach he proceeds to be aggressively nasty to Ann and genial to Patrick (after having announced his return by punching him squarely in the face and apologised by bringing him flowers).  It’s clear that Dave knows he must win Ann back or face some sort of oblivion and the recurring theme was not so much his behaviour but that he knew it was an essential strategy he must employ. The continuing issue of Ann only responding to varying amounts of emotional blackmail, slander, verbal abuse and physical violence was the most disturbing (and compelling) aspect. Ann has the choice of Patrick’s sensible, if indecisive, and optimistic behaviour vs Dave’s self-loathing, sociopathic and spiteful tactics. Both men clearly do love Ann but it is clear that Dave needs her in a way that Patrick is not capable of. Certainly Ann tries to go it alone after she realises that she is only with Patrick on the rebound yet she still allows herself to be bullied back into the relationship and although it was depressingly predictable, you can’t help wishing she could find another way. The title referred at one point to break-up sex but also to the actual process of negotiating getting back together. I hadn’t realised, because I’ve never actually read it, but Christopher Hampton wrote ‘Treats’ while working on translating Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ (which I finally picked up a copy of recently). It seems Hampton felt that the issue of women (maybe men too?) trapping themselves in oppressive and hopeless (not to mention abusive) relationships was just as relevant in the 1970’s as it had been a hundred years previous and that maybe Ibsen’s play was too subtle and not shocking enough. Except that the wife leaves the marriage in Ibsen’s play which is arguably what was so exciting about it. This made me think of Joe Penhall’s play ‘Love and Understanding’ (again two guys and a gal) where despite the happiness of the couple at the outset (perhaps ‘contentment’ is a better word) and the obviously self-destructive personality of the third party the girlfriend is drawn to sleep with the newcomer as much by his manipulations as by the inability or unwillingness of the boyfriend to react in the desired way. Or was she? We all crave excitement and if things have gotten stale (read ‘stable’ or ‘predictable’) then you might well start looking around or, at any rate, become susceptible to being lead astray. In ‘When Harry Met Sally’ Harry is discussing his recently failed marriage with a friend. His friend nods sagely and says “Marriages don’t break up on a count of infidelity.  It’s just a symptom that something else is wrong.” Harry replies, “Oh really?  Well that symptom is fucking my wife.”

3 thoughts on “Bizarre Love Triangle”

  1. Wow. That was the longest paragraph ever. My brain hurts. I don’t think even Henry James wrote paragraphs that long.

    Did you enjoy it? How did the Malvern audience respond?

  2. I did enjoy it. Annoyingly there were too many excitable young things who were just there because of the star appeal (but then I can’t claim I wasn’t) and for some reason the audience persisted in applauding between scene changes which took away from any reflection and drowned out the director’s carefully selected music.

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