This never before performed obscurity from Robert Graves has definitely missed its moment
The Finborough does this. When it’s not importing unheard-of contemporary transatlantic playwrights, it’s rediscovering forgotten mid-twentieth century ‘classics’. And right now, it’s rediscovering Robert Graves (of ‘Good-bye To All That’ and ‘I, Claudius’ fame) and his never-performed play ‘But It Still Goes On’.
According to the programme notes, the play wasn’t performed when it was originally written in the late 1920s because it was deemed too candid about same-sex relationships. That may be the case, but it still doesn’t deserve a place on stage today, not because of its depiction of homosexuality, but for an entirely different reason: it’s terrible.
Set in the years after the First World War, it follows the sexual and social machinations of a wealthy literary family and their various hangers-on. Dick is a failed poet beleaguered by despondency. Cecil is his belligerent, womanising dad. David Casselis is his secretly gay best friend, suffering from PTSD, and Charlotte is his secretly lesbian crush.
But, seriously, who cares? It might have been daring back in the day, but in 2018 it’s interminably dull stuff. It’s just impossible to relate to this world of prissiness and privilege, and impossible to care about a wonky, centre-less storyline. Fidelis Morgan’s production doesn’t help matters. Set underneath a bland, white awning, with only a few clunky items of furniture to shift the scenes, it really struggles to find life. And a cast of nine often makes the tiny Finborough stage feel cluttered.
There are a few good performances – Alan Cox’s Dick has a nice, Tom Hollander blather about him – and there might be a smidgeon of historical interest in seeing a post-war play that attempts to capture England’s collective ennui, but on balance, ‘But It Still Goes On’ should have been left in the draw gathering dust.