Theatre: Grasses of A Thousand Colours



Saturday morning over breakfast, we were discussing how it was possible to have sex with a cat. There was a general consensus at the table that it would be quite difficult as unlike a cow, a goat (Silvia perhaps), or a big dog, a cat would have other ideas. I hypothesised that perhaps the cat could be used like some sort of muff. Such was the fascinating conversation that ensued after seeing Grasses of A Thousand Colours at the Royal Court on Friday evening.

This play is part of the Wallace Shawn season at the Royal Court, and is a world premiere featuring Miranda Richardson, Jennifer Tilly and Shawn himself. Shawn plays a scientist who has managed to manipulate the food chain with rather surprising results. In amongst all that he has three women in his life and sex with a cat that ends up bruising his penis (or giving it a funny colour at least).

Most of the story unfolds through a series on monologues. A series of monologues that lasted nearly three hours with only two ten minute intervals. It was the first play that I had been to that comes with instructions as well. Sitting down to dinner at the theatre beforehand (something low in carbs is necessary to avoid falling asleep), you were strongly encouraged to order your interval drinks right there as the intervals would be brief. I was wondering whether this contempt for the audience was part of the experience of the play. Naturally being presented with such recommendations I ignored them, although with hindsight making time for coffee during the brief intermissions might have been a smarter choice.

It could have been worse I suppose. A month or so back I received a worrying email from the theatre saying the play was going well over three hours and that you better not be expecting to get the last train home. Of course there always was the easy (and quite popular option if Friday night is anything to go by) of skipping the third act altogether. It was during the second act when the cat sex entered the story so perhaps these people were dog lovers. Still, as fascinating and rewarding as it was to see Miranda Richardson lick Shawn's bald head and Jennifer Tilly in her underwear, those people that missed these and other things in the third act, didn't really miss that much.

Monologues are interesting stuff when they are witty and unusual and have a new point to make but when it is just relentless cat sex it does just become a bit of a drag. My mind started wandering to thinking about the cat I used to torment when I was growing up that met a gruesome end from other cats in our neighbourhood. Or the cat that was nearly eaten by a friend's dog. Then there was the cat that ate the garlic prawns about to be served at dinner... It was only when the dialogue between the characters started happening in the third act that I snapped back into attention.

If the night was warmer and the play was duller I definitely would have left at the end of act two. Well summer is here and the pubs stay open longer now. Life is just too short to sit through something that could have been edited. But given the quality of the cast and the fact that the production was not that bad, curiosity did get the better of me. There was general agreement that the cast made it almost worth hanging around to see, but coffee would be advisable. All things being equal, it is probably worth seeing, but beware of the conversations that might ensue the morning after... It runs until the end of June...

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