Ever hear the expression, “Too clever for his/her/their own good”? Usually applied to people, it’s not necessarily seen as a compliment. Having now seen One Was Nude and One Wore Tails at the Hen and Chickens Theatre, I’m now going to say this about playwright Dario Fo.
The play itself seems to be split into three distinct parts. The first is an introductory song by a group of road sweepers who sing of their lives and their jobs. Part 2, if you will, is a philosophical discussion between two of the road sweepers (Nicholas Bright and Brian Eastty). The road sweepers are not named but let’s just say Road Sweeper 1 is a little intellectually and linguistically challenged when compared to Road Sweeper 2. No 2, has an interesting take on life and particularly the importance of being unimportant so comes up with philosophical gems such as “You don’t see yourself as anyone. You see yourself as nobody, in short, a nothingness… But is not nothingness perhaps the beginning of everything, in other words, the absolute? And the absolute, as Plato says, is God, and therefore you are God..” An interesting concept I’m sure you will agree but one which the, shall we say, easily led Road Sweeper No 1 finds attractive as an idea. Fortunately, their discussions are cut short by the arrival of a woman (Elena Clements) who is possibly on the run from the local police and needs the assistance of Road Sweeper 2 to get her out of her predicament. The final part of the play begins some time later, when Road Sweeper 1 returns to pick up his bin but finds it occupied by a well-to-do man (Darren Ruston) wearing only a top hat and looking rather guilty as he sits naked among the rubbish. He implores the road sweeper to help him and the road sweeper, firstly knowing his place is to help those from a higher class than himself, and secondly desperate to get his bin back before a supervisor sees him, agrees to assist the naked man. Could an evening dress wearing flower seller (Jake Francis) be the answer to everyone’s prayers?
Let’s start with the writing. Now, I understand that Italian actor-playwright, comedian, singer, theatre director, stage designer, songwriter, painter and political campaigner for the Italian left-wing Dario Fo, is considered a pretty good writer – he was the recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature – but One Was Nude and One Wore Tails left me feeling frustrated and angry with myself that I hadn’t managed to fully understand it. The opening number left me bemused, the two men philosophising was a bit too much like ‘Waiting for Godot’ for my liking – though there were some very interesting conversation points raised. And the final scene had some good comedic elements but just never felt like it was fully resolved, indeed, for all the talk of importance and God, poor Road Sweeper No 1 seemed to come out the worst of the whole crowd in my opinion. So, from a story point of view, One Was Nude and One Wore Tails really didn’t do it for me at all. The play is described as a socialist one-act farce and, I have to say, whilst the socialist ideas were fairly evident in the narrative – I downloaded the script today to read through – there are easier and slightly more comprehensible ways to get hem over to an audience.
Looking at the acting, and praise where praise is due, the cast were really good at bringing the show to life. Nicholas Bright as the rather dimwitted ‘hero’ of the piece, was on stage for the majority of the piece and did a really fine job of making his road sweeper likeable and easy to identify with. I did have a couple of issues with the staging such as, if a chap is going to run across the stage being ‘naked’ then he should have something like flesh coloured stockings or similar rather than a white thong which rather ruins the illusion. Having said that, overall Director Michael Ward and the Theatre of Heaven and Hell team have put together a pretty good production of what, for me at least, is not a great play. Having seen the company perform before and seen what they made of One Was Nude and One Wore Tails, I’m looking forward to their next production.
Review by Terry Eastham
The critically acclaimed theatre company, Theatre of Heaven & Hell, are back with Dario Fo’s farce “One Was Nude and One Wore Tails”.
As in all Fo’s work, serious ideas about society pigeon-holing its citizens are explored satirically, with great humour, knockabout slapstick and vaudeville-style song and dance. Fo doesn’t preach or lecture, but instead uses clowns and buffoons to portray society’s foolish pretensions. A hilarious comedy suitable for all ages.
7th – 18th March 2017