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Oh The Humanity, and other Exclamations; Will Eno

I’ve learnt a few things.

“ “Oh, the humanity” has become an American phrase, signifying expressions of strong emotion. The phrase is often used in a cynical way to decry exaggerated responses to minor tragedies” according to wiki.

It was, it seems, first used by the broadcaster of the time, Herbert Morrison to describe the Hindenburg disaster, when a Zeppelin burst into flames in the 1930s in New Jersey.

And thus Will Eno’s play collection – which is 5 loosely interlinked plays – is aptly named.

I was impressed by the actors: Brian Hutchinson and Marisa Tomei (there was a cameo for Drew Hildebrand too). I had seen Tomei before at the ART and had not been much moved by her then. I did discover this time that she could wear beautiful and very expensive looking high heels and walk very well in them and that she had a tattoo on her, I think, left foot. It looked like an Egyptian eye of Ra. No, I didn’t look that up. Right. I must have been distracted. I digress, the performances were very strong.

But, it was the play that was intriguing and I think did touch on the profound.

You could argue that the plays were slight. The title suggests and sums up the whole play. In each play a minor or a major tragedy (always major to some one) occurs and the characters try to make sense of the event with a mixture of the banal and deeply emotional.

However, even the banal was the type laced with the reactions we see in the media, around us and probably by us.

I’m sorry I hear that your father died.
Yes. Thanks.
I know how you must feel.
Thank you [what do you mean you know how I feel, how you can you know how I feel.]

[Not quotes - it was better written than that - from the play just a sense of the banl things I've heard people say in response to the sad.]

And so, the play juxtaposes these reactions. It places unhappy, unfortunate and down right tragic occurrences against our every day humanity. It asks the audience to consider its own response to these same or similar events (such as an airplane crash).

You might argue this is lazy and that the play with this premise is light.

But, in granting these characters an eloquence or occasional aphorism by creating them to mirror people, events and places we know, my sense is that the play suggests we are all deeply human and affected by tragic events in a way which does reflect our humanity even if most of the time we may not have the language to express it and certainly not the language in the public sphere rather than in the private sphere where much of the expression of tragedy and sadness occurs.

The small movement to touch the back of the hand of someone you care for.
Clearing away your dead father’s ties for the last time.
Wondering why you can’t find love.

I digress again. Large in premise but treated gently, a mix of aphorisms (“My love is like a sunset: stunning and then over”) and banalities it debates our humanity with ourselves and in the theatre.

Some will not bring this with them, and the piece requires the audience to complete the spaces and the subtext beneath the banal niceties, so I wouldn’t say this play was for everyone but I guess I left a little different to how I entered the theatre, which is one of the things I aim for.

New York / Troubled Blog

I’ve been in New York and having touble with the blog. It’s something to do with php and firefox. Anyways…

I saw only one piece of theatre in New York (apart from the theatre of the actual city) Oh the Humanity and other exclamations by Will Eno whose Thom Pain (based on nothing) was also well lauded and came to London.

Anyone else had a firefox / php / word press blog issue let me know… 


  • About me

    I'm a playwright and investment analyst. I have a broad range of interests: food, gardening, innovation & intellectual property, sustainability, architecture & design, writing and the arts. I sit on the board of Talawa Theatre Company and advise a CIS investment trust on socially responsible investments.

  • Recent Work

    Recent plays include, for theatre: Nakamitsu, Yellow Gentlemen, Lost in Peru, Lemon Love. For radio: Places in Between (R4), Patent Breaking Life Saving (WS).

  • Nakamitsu

  • Yellow Gentlemen