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Geneva gets taste of Thatcherism

Roberto Salomon, translator and director of "Family Business". Théatre: Family business.

Geneva's Grütli theatre is staging "Family Business" by the British playwright, Alan Ayckbourn. The play is a scathing critique of British life during Margaret Thatcher's years in power.

The play is directed by Roberto Salomon who came to Geneva from war-torn El Salvador in 1980. Salomon is a confirmed admirer of English-language playwrights. “They’re the best in the world”, he says.

“Family Business” particularly attracted him because he sees a Shakespearean quality in the play. “The characters are well defined, and follow different plot paths, but they’re also controlled by destiny.”

The play tells the story of a family’s almost innocent descent into crime. For Salomon it pinpoints the importance of the family in society, but also shows the way such a supportive institution can also become a deadly one.

Salomon believes the play’s focus on 1980s Thatcherism, a period in British politics which has inspired neo-liberals worldwide, is equally relevant today as it was when Ayckbourn conceived the work in 1987. Current criticism of globalisation gives the play contemporary relevance.

Ayckbourn’s characters are quintessential members of England’s lower middle class. Although the play is being performed in French, Salomon has chosen to maintain the Englishness of the setting, the costumes and the characters’ mannerisms.

With 13 actors playing 17 different roles, Salomon has also taken a risk by casting seven unknowns. But one, Geneva’s Christian Gregori, has a snowballing reputation, and is also appearing in Nicolas Wadimoff’s new film “15, rue des Bains”.

Salomon says his biggest difficulty is trying to prevent the actors from thinking. “I want them to behave as if they’re caught up in a whirlpool, since this is the essence of Ayckbourn’s characterisation.

“Ayckbourn is basically an action writer. The comic effect of his work depends on it.”

“Family Business” is at the Grütli until December 31.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR