Tuesday, September 05, 2006

On Peter Morgan

Amid the current trend for dramatic portrayals of real events, writer Peter Morgan would seem to be the man of the moment. The author of The Deal (which was shown to such acclaim on Channel 4) currently has a play on at the Donmar, Frost/Nixon, as well as a soon-to-be-released feature film, The Queen. And next up will be a project based around the odd relationship of Lord Longford and Myra Hindley.

Such has been the praise for Frost/Nixon, it looks set to transfer to a bigger West End venue, and The Queen will almost certainly win Helen Mirren an Oscar nomination.

Morgan’s approach to the events he depicts is extraordinarily even-handed, crisp and believable. In many respects, this is far harder to pull off successfully than one which has a strong point-of-view. Frost/Nixon is as much about the struggle between two egos, a fight for the supremacy awarded by fame, as about politics or TV journalism. Similarly The Queen deals with the collision between two types of cultures in one country, as personified by Diana and the monarch. In each case, whatever Morgan’s own political views, there’s no preaching, and we’re left to draw our own conclusions.

Most importantly perhaps, these productions make the recent efforts of our supposed giants of political theatre look outmoded and cumbersome. David Edgar’s Playing with Fire, and David Hare’s Stuff Happens, both of which were at the National, seemed by comparison mealy-mouthed, predictable and, most crucially, un-dramatic.

The Queen is in essence a sequel to The Deal, and one can’t help but suspect that Morgan is planning a trilogy – one which might finish with The War, perhaps, or The President. It would be interesting to see how this chronicler of the Blair years handled the world after 9/11.

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