Timon of Athens

first_imgIn any discussion of Shakespeare, we have all come to inevitably expect the immediate worship of everything he produced. We are inclined to replace what previous generations may have termed “poor” or “problematic” with terms such as ‘experimental’. Sadly, I do not feel that I can use such a term when speaking of Timon of Athens. I felt too often during the performance that the play’s events lacked the unity one would expect: the two reversals of fortune happen so closely together that the audience barely has time to understand the significance of either or to appreciate the themes that are developed in each. The uneasy feeling that the play consists of a series of events without an organising narrative is constantly at the forefront of the audience’s consciousness.Indeed the central theme is the poisonous nature of money and the contrast between material reality and the idealistic world of the mind and spirit. Timon’s mistake is in essence that he trusts in the intangible bonds that he shares with his “friends” when these bonds are in fact based on his money and thus have a real existence in the world, subject to the transient nature of existence. The transcendent and eternal, commonly represented by love, are almost entirely rejected in this play by the constant association of the values and ideas of civilization with the material world through money. Even romantic love itself, constantly made into a transcendent reality within art, only appears in the guise of prostitutes. In a Marxist sense, the supposedly eternal values and concepts are projected by mankind onto the world, stemming from his material situation.However, the play fails to develop this theme properly by giving it a true contrast: Apemantus merely accepts the world as a spectator and fails to change it, arriving to mock and ridicule it, but never to truly challenge it. “I am sick of this false world” indicates the depths of despair that Timon feels in the essentially meaningless world, and seems to represent the world as intrinsically false. Moreover, the nightmarish view of Alcibiades, namely that “Soldiers should brook as little wrongs as gods”, has too much brutality and personal pride about it to be appreciated as a viable option. Apart from the lone character of Flavius, whose relationship with Timon is consistently underdeveloped, there is little humanity to be taken from the play.Though I thought the attempt to use a very meagre set with very few props was admirable, the play failed to pull it off: the use of a plastic Sainsbury’s bakery tub as some sort of treasure chest was a step too far. In terms of acting, Nakul Krishna captured the resonances of the language very well, whilst the others occasionally had a moment of excellence, but mostly managed to pass it off fairly well. In short I would only advise you to see this play if you have a desire to see everything Shakespeare ever produced or have a specific penchant for it.last_img read more