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The Dying of Today
by Howard Barker
Directed by Gerrard McArthur
21 October - 22 November 2008  

On an ordinary day

Comes a man with extraordinary news
And the unknown reveals itself
Destroying an ordinary life…
And a civilization

Muscular and memorable, Barker’s witty, dark compelling tale is an exhilarating and powerful testing of a life.

And a bold and beautiful exploration of a world overturned...

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Photos above by Sarah Ainslie

In this concise 70 minute piece, a new customer at a tells a barber that he has made the telling of bad news his life’s work. He invites th barber to envisage the worst imaginable catastrophe. He imagines a national catastrophe in which his own son is a victim. The approaching disaster will destroy his life but also, paradoxically, that of the diabolical visitor. At the end, they share a dreadful intimacy.

In the wash of savagery that the world experiences every 24 hours, how can we contain any sense of individual suffering?  How can those overturned by greater powers make sense of what they have suffered? In this play, the barber is given a unique opportunity to experience catastrophe before it has actually happened. He gains an agonising knowledge, while his customers, friends and neighbours know nothing of the cataclysm to come.  The play explores what this does to him.

Presented by The Wrestling School at the Arcola Theatre in London.

‘…steely intellectualism, dogged eschewal of
naturalism and ornate language, Howard Barker…
remains reliably provocative.’
The Times

‘…a sophisticated exercise in high-concept
bloodless carnage…’
Time Out  

Duncan Bell's performance is brilliantly disconcerting: he flirts with doom, smiles inappropriately... outstanding'
The Observer

'George Irving’s performance as the Barber is mesmerising'
Whats on Stage

'hypnotic...truly unnerving'
The Stage

'There’s an engagement with language here, and an ambition, which can’t be faulted.'
The Sunday Times

'I found this play fascinating, held by two stunning performances… They handle Barker's text with skill, giving it spontaneity despite its careful crafting.'
Brtitish Theatre Guide

L-R: George Irving (The Barber), Howard Barker,
Gerrard McAthur
(Director), Duncan Bell (The Visitor)
Barker McAryjur and castDuncan Bell is well known on TV as Sgt. Merton in HEARTBEAT (4 series) amongst many other TV roles. His stage roles have included, most recently, Ben Hecht in MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS at the Tricycle Theatre; Perchikin in PHILISTINES and Sagredo in THE LIFE OF GALILEO (both at the National Theatre).

George Irving is also a well-known television face; he played Meyer in HOLBY CITY for four years as well as dozens of other TV roles. His stage work has taken him all over the UK and includes Claudius in HAMLET (Greenwich Theatre and Birmingham Rep); Leroy Hamilton in THE LAST YANKEE (Colchester); Blakeley in WHITE WOMAN STREET at the Bush Theatre and Leontes in THE WINTER’S TALE at Salisbury Playhouse.  

Gerrard McArthur is a Wrestling School Associate.  Among other work he has directed an award winning production of Heiner Muller’s Quartet at the Queen’s in Adelaide, the oldest theatre in Australia. He has also co-directed with opera director/designer Stewart Laing the celebrated art provocateur and Lucien Freud muse, Leigh Bowery, in the French writer Copi’s deranged farce, The Difficulty of Expressing Oneself at Tramway, Glasgow and London.

The Dying of Today is included in Barker Plays Four        ISBN 978-1-84002-851-5
Published by Oberon Books  +44 (0) 20 7607 3637
French's Theatre Bookshop (020 7387 9373) in London usually have them

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Howard Barker's latest book:
A Style And Its Origins

A commentary on the development of Howard Barker's theatre aesthetic over the past 20 years
Published by Oberon Books
+44 20 7607 3637