People by Alan Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
People is characterised by Bennett's trademark northern humour: sharp, clever, occasionally arch and with considerable human warmth. It's also characterised by what in recent years has become his trademark sloppiness. Bennett wants to get certain gags in, and sometimes goes meandering off to collect every laugh possible regardless of whether the journey was worth it.
Laughs come thick and fast in the first 20 minutes, but they peter out into occasional chuckles as the interval draws near and the script's energy dissipates. The second quarter of the play needs a complete rewrite; I didn't learn much or laugh much, and my attention started to wander. It's possible that I nodded off. Whatever I missed didn't seem important because when the action really got going in the second half, it still made perfect sense.
And it's worth waiting for the second half. The making of the porn film is hilariously scripted with an Orton-like farcical energy, while the denouement is slyly satirical. Maybe three stars is harsh, but I'm getting a bit tired of Bennett publishing half-baked work and still being hailed as a genius.
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