Wedding Day at the Cro-Magnons
The Black and White Ball
You can tell when a culture has lost its way because it starts handing out awards. There’s a small club of annual prizes that have some legitimacy. Oscar, Bafta, Booker, Olivier, Nobel — all provide worthwhile verdicts on the disciplines they attach themselves to. But adding to their number cheapens the entire enterprise. Like prophets and fire drills, the more awards there are the more they get ignored. Little surprise, then, that the Lebanese playwright Wajdi Mouawad has collected so many trophies that he has to scramble over heaped ramparts of silverware every time he leaves the house. Aged 34, he was granted a lifetime achievement award by some august French body that apparently bungs out gongs with its eyes blindfold, a bit like pinning the tail on the donkey. Mouawad, now 40, has been hailed in Le Monde as ‘one of the world’s most talented French-language playwrights’, God help the world’s French-language play-goers. His latest doodle, Wedding Day at the Cro-Magnons, is set in a Lebanese town during an aerial bombardment.
It looks good to start with. The Cro-Magnons’ flat is set on a steep rake, with foreshortened angles, and one wall blown apart with a snaggly missile hole at roughly serving-hatch level. Enter a mother and son. They start bickering aimlessly and making lots of jokes that aren’t funny. The air-raid barely gets a mention. A friend drops by and the tedious chitchat continues while an off-stage hysteric barks repetitive questions through the serving-hatch. This turns out to be the family’s mad daughter who suffers from narcolepsy and sexual delusions and is convinced she’s engaged to be married.