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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama

My Zinc Bed

David Hare

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Title: My Zinc Bed
Author: David Hare
Genre: Drama
Written: 2000
Length: 130 pages
Availability: My Zinc Bed - US
My Zinc Bed - UK
My Zinc Bed - Canada
  • My Zinc Bed premièred at the Royal Court Theatre, 14 September 2000, in a production directed by the author and starring Steven Mackintosh, Tom Wilkinson, and Julia Ormond
  • My Zinc Bed was made into a TV-film in 2008, directed by Anthony Page and starring Paddy Considine, Jonathan Pryce, and Uma Thurman

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Our Assessment:

B : sombre study of addiction, need, and love

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Evening Standard B- 15/9/2000 Nicholas de Jongh
The Guardian A- 16/9/2000 Michael Billington
The Independent A- 17/9/2000 Kate Bassett
The Sunday Times . 24/9/2000 John Peter
The Times . 2/11/2006 Benedict Nightingale
TLS . 6/10/2000 Oliver Reynolds

  Review Consensus:

  All with some reservations, but most quite positive

  From the Reviews:
  • "I fear this grand design does not really work at all, despite Hare's eloquence and suitable anger. (...) On a more mundane level the play works as a will-they-do-it ? (...) Talk of the internet, the precariousness of the international financial markets, the rejection of political ideology, and the aggressiveness of capitalism is dotted briefly through the play. Yet it does not really cohere within Hare's theatrical frame." - Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard

  • "(D)ense, rich and engrossing, even if sometimes the social commentary is shadowed by Warner Brothers melodrama. (...) If anything, Hare floats too many ideas. But he is very good on the acrid solitude of a staled marriage and the difficulty of conquering one's debasing compulsions. And, as always, his writing is laced with a sharp, suggestive wit." - Michael Billington, The Guardian

  • "(A)n intellectually bracing, sociologically analytical and emotionally charged three-hander about market forces and modern love, addictions and transience, constructive and destructive urges." - Kate Bassett, The Independent

  • "You'll note that Victor, like Hare, is in his early fifties and married, extremely happily, for eight years. Paul could be his younger self, still barely out of the grip of addiction. Neither are quite true as self-portraits; but the device explains why, towards the end, the play becomes self-admiring, verbose and sentimental, as if leave-taking were difficult." - John Peter, The Sunday Times

  • "As usual with Hare, there is much impassioned, articulate discussion, lots of moral complexity, some witty observation, and a strong inference that the characters are representative of the British zeitgeist. (...) It's less fun than Amy's View, less punchy than Plenty, but also subtle and trenchant, emotionally intelligent and intellectually distinguished." - Benedict Nightingale, The Times

  • "My Zinc Bed could well be Hare's worst play. (...) (T)he play's main subject, addiction. By the end of My Zinc Bed this subject has been thoroughly discussed -- but not dramatized." - Oliver Reynolds, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       There are only three characters in My Zinc Bed, a small world unto itself. One is a poet, another a successful Internet entrepreneur -- but Hare only shows a closed off part of their lives (and that of the rich man's wife), a tight triangle twisting under enormous pressures.
       Paul Peplow is the young poet. Unable to live off his art (and a recovering alcoholic), he is reduced to working as a journalist, which is how he meets Victor Quinn. Quinn, a one-time communist, now runs FLOTILLA, a thriving (at least at the beginning of the play) Internet company, with the typical Internet profile: no profits, just potential -- "only the promise of profits". Peplow gets the opportunity to interview him, a small journalistic coup that he doesn't take advantage of -- even when Quinn gives him carte blanche to write whatever he wants: "I shall be your invention", he says. Instead, the poet goes to work for the capitalist. (As it turns out, he fails at being Quinn's invention as well.)
       Quinn is quite a character: rich, successful, a former communist. And he was actually familiar with Peplow's poetry. He likes the idea of supporting the arts, and the struggling artist, in this way. And he likes Peplow as well.
       Peplow is an addict. To alcohol, to Alcoholics Anonymous, to self-pity and self-hate. He struggles.
       Peplow's relationship with Quinn is complicated by Quinn's wife, Elsa -- also a vaguely recovering alcoholic that Quinn fished up out of the gutter (not quite, but almost). Love further undermines the conflicted Peplow.
       They all are needy folk. They seem to need each other -- but then can't accept what the others offer.
       Peplow, especially, is ill-suited to ... life. His last girlfriend -- "twelve-man Clem" -- betrayed him with no less than a dozen other men. He is terribly weak. He gladly admits: "Everything frightens me", as if that absolves him from all his failures.
       Quinn has no respect for AA, telling Peplow that it, too, is an addiction, a cult that ropes you in and makes you dependent. Elsa escaped from their clutches; Peplow chooses to depend on them. Elsa does appear stronger, but she too shows some frailty, some cracks.
       As does Quinn.
       Philosophical Quinn ("the only thing that imprisons us is fear of other people's opinion") seems the most stoic of the three, but he also shows his vulnerabilities. He loves Elsa, but they have also reached an impasse in their relationship. He needs Peplow, but Peplow is too weak to give him what he wants. The poet wonders:

Is he Mephistopheles ? Am I playing Faust ? I'm to make a contract, am I ? To lure me to my doom ?
       Things change over the course of this one "cyber-summer". Including the collapse of the Internet-speculation house of cards. It was all smoke and mirrors -- much, Hare seems to imply, like all human relationships. Certainly like these.

       Hare presents the play fairly well. There are no easy answers here, though there are lots of difficult questions. Hare doesn't offer solutions: perhaps it is true that "we shall know nothing until we are laid out on our zinc bed."
       Several of the scenes are very strong, as Hare lets his characters dance around each other, but the progress of the play isn't as neat as one might wish (though it probably works better in this respect on the stage than on the page). Hare also doesn't seem entirely comfortable with the Internet / computer aspect of the play. The basic idea is a decent one: "All Internet businesses are about potential. They're about expectation", and all of life is like that too, and the complete deflating, the collapse of the Internet businesses clearly mirrors the collapse of the three people in this play. But the computer-related details don't ring completely true: Hare seems unsure in writing about them.
       It is a sombre and triste play, touching on a great deal -- addiction, love, man lost and alone in the modern world -- with some very nice bits and ideas. The whole is less convincing than the parts, but it is still a piece of some interest.

       Note: Among the odd and slightly off-key exchanges in the play -- aging Hare trying to be hip and contemporary ? -- this one stands out in particular:
Paul   I'm not asking you to dis him.
Elsa  It's not a question of dissing him. It's a question of privacy. It's a question of respect.
       Our understanding is that the verb "to dis" gained popularity in the 'hood (and certainly not a London neighbourhood), and comes from "disrespect": to "dis" someone is to show him disrespect. So "a question of dissing" surely is a "question of respect".
       Perhaps British use of the term differs, but Hare seems to be ... dissing language here in an entirely inappropriate way.

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My Zinc Bed: Reviews: My Zinc Bed - the TV film: David Hare: Other books by David Hare under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Drama under review

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About the Author:

       English playwright David Hare was born in 1947. He has written many plays and screenplays and won numerous prizes.

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© 2001-2008 the complete review

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