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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Barnes’ People

Original Theatre Online / Online / Stage / Film & TV

Just as Talking Heads, a series of monologues by Alan Bennett, were a perfect fit for performance during a pandemic, so four monologues by the British playwright Peter Barnes (The Ruling Class), who died in 2004, have been revived. Written in the 1980s and 90s, the plays, which originally starred actors such as Judi Dench and Alan Rickman, embody Barnes’s singular style: they are controversial, expansive, and ironic. Now taking the form of short films, they star Jon Culshaw, Matthew Kelly, Jemma Redgrave, and Adrian Scarborough, and are shot on the stage of London’s Theatre Royal Windsor. The most intriguing of the four is A True Born Englishman, directed by Peter Franks and starring Scarborough as a veteran footman of Buckingham Palace. This monologue has never before been performed. Barnes claimed it was banned by the BBC when he first wrote it, but Frank recently said, “It’s not remotely scandalous about the royal family.” Rather, it picks up where Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day left off. “It’s about the British tendency towards servility,” says Frank. —J.V.

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