Waiting for Brando

Written by Mike Morris and Steve Higginson
Directed by Carl Cockram
The Unity Theatre
Tuesday 22nd to Thursday 24th May 2012
Writing on the Wall Festival

Reviewed by Laura Naylor

This play is based upon the myth that whilst filming On the Waterfront, two Liverpool Merchant Seamen were allowed to stay in the bar during one scene. They are all waiting for the star of the film, Marlon Brando, to show up and, for the younger of the two ‘Cunard yanks’, this is a source of great excitement.

Hunched over his typewriter, Elia Kazan wrestles with the fact he betrayed his friends by naming names at a meeting with the House Un-American Activities Committee. He believes he was justified and regrets his friends turning their backs on him but it would seem his conscience, in the form of his once best friend Arthur Miller, would argue otherwise.

The focus of the play switches between Kazan’s musings and two young men in a bar. At first we see one reading a letter from his sweetheart back home shortly followed by another who immediately starts on some sort of con. Dropping his cigarettes the act is broken and the two embrace, it becomes clear they are brothers. Joe Shipman who plays Vinnie the younger of the two shifts seamlessly from an American accent to his native scouse.

The main focus of the play would appear to be on the reflections of the two brothers, they certainly take up the bulk of the stage area and their scenes involve far more physical movement with dancing and fighting. The scenes between Kazan and Miller were far more sedate.

I really feel for the two ‘Cunard yanks’, Eddie, the older of the two grew up during the war and so never had a proper childhood. He had to grow up fast whereas his younger brother Vinnie was too young to realise the true horrors of war and so is excited in his youthful adulthood. He sees a world waiting for him to explore as opposed to Eddie who feels he must return home to look after his mum since his father came back from the war ‘funny’.

The major question emerging from this performance for me is ‘What is the right thing to do?” What, at the end of the day, should you spend your life doing. Should you devote it to fighting ‘the man’ ensuring the well being of others and generations to come. But then you only get one life and shouldn’t you just try to get as much enjoyment as you can out of it? It’s a tricky one certainly.

Ultimately, there are some lighthearted moments but there was no cathartic conclusion to this performance. I was almost hoping that Vinnie would perhaps be ‘discovered’, maybe asked to be an extra for the film, so his outwardly indulgent fantasies would be justified. However, this would have been trite and life never gives such direct answers. Eddie is right – there are very few people that actually achieve some level of notoriety and if that is your dream then you could spend the rest of your life desperately searching for happiness that may never come.

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