The National Theatre is putting Timon of Athens on next month. I have thought about going but don't know the play so I read it. It's a curious work, kind of unfinished and unbalanced but you can see why the NT might be producing it at this time. Timon is a rich man in Athens, who has spent all his money on parties and helping out friends. When his debtors call in some debts, he finds he has nothing left. Worse, he finds none of his supposed friends is prepared to help him out.
So he goes mad, becomes a raving misanthropic wild man of the woods, and ultimately finances the rebellion against the Athenian government. In a week when we've seen a Nazi member of the Greek parliament physically attack a woman on a television programme, this is almost prophetic. All we need is a character called Imfio to complete the picture.
But the end of the play ties all together again. Alcibiades, the rebel, shows mercy towards the subdued city, in contrast to Timon's scattergun malice. Like The Merchant of Venice, the play essentially suggests that extremes - either of generosity or of misanthropy - don't work. It's not a particularly complex finding.
I've a feeling I won't be going to see the play. It's a play whose quality allows, in fact demands, a tendentious production and I don't think that's something I'm particularly interested in.
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