Bach and Sons assessment: Spouse and children drama demonstrates Bach’s flawed genius
imon Russell Beale offers us another wonderful monster as the pushed, heedlessly cruel Johann Sebastian Bach in Nina Raine’s uneven biographical drama. He is waspish, obsessive, chilly – an ostensibly devout and loving father and husband who doesn’t know how to enjoy. Raine’s play, which is by turns intriguing and smug, raises the perennial difficulty of regardless of whether you can separate the dreadful guy – it is even now nearly normally a gentleman – from the elegant get the job done.
This is also a relatives drama crammed with envy, greed, rage and lust. If Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus, about Mozart and Salieri, was a thriller at coronary heart, this display is a cleaning soap. It’s composed in modern-day idiom – “why are you so awful to mum”, “he’s a p***head” – and unfolds as a collection of escalating confrontations involving Bach and his sons and fans. These standoffs also illustrate the use of counterpoint and fugue in his tunes. It is not essential to have a operating information of 18th century compositional approaches to fully appreciate the clearly show, but it possibly helps.
It starts in 1717 where Beale’s Bach is operating via the night time, oblivious to his wakeful new newborn. Considering the fact that he’s frequently composing, conducting, rehearsing, educating and crafting begging letters for money, it is a ponder he found time to impregnate his to start with spouse Barbara (Pandora Colin) seven moments. Intellect you, her alternative Anna (Racheal Ofori), bore 13 youngsters.
If the demise of their mother and far more than 50 percent of their siblings eventually hangs heavy on his eldest surviving sons, good but unstable Willi (Douggie McMeekini) and diligent Carl (Samuel Blenkin), it hardly bothers Bach. He exhorts the boys to greatness, driving 1 to drink and a different to furious resentment, shelling out the expenses but pushing them away. A camp, insouciantly vicious Frederick the Excellent (Pravessh Rana) pops up to illustrate the greater paternalistic cruelty of the age, but the verdict on Bach is very damning.
Nicholas Hytner’s manufacturing delivers a thoroughly clean, clear body for Beale and for pleasantly understated performances from Colin and McMeekin in particular. It also asks a lot of the viewers. Apart from the numerous discussions on the objective and development of audio, there is masses of expository historic depth shoehorned in, and a sapping opening barrage of one particular-liners (“death would be a great profession move”). It’s normally dimly lit, leaving us squinting into the gloom. Barbara appears barely more mature than her little ones: indeed, Bach is the only character who visibly ages.
I’ll willingly suspend a lot of levels of disbelief to observe Beale, and I acquired a whole lot about Bach here. But in the long run this participate in revolves – wittily, cleverly, but repetitively – about the themes of flawed genius and the toxic legacies of fame and spouse and children. Possibly together with counterpoint and fugue, additional imagined could have been offered to development.