191: Mountain Language

2 Jan

Apologies first for the long gap in posting. A holiday from work, blogging and even play-reading was needed. But now it’s 2012 and, hopefully, I’ll get back into the swing of things.

Boat on Lake Cootharaba

Holidays at Lake Cootharaba

Today’s play seemed a quick way to ease myself back, but looks can be deceiving. Harold Pinter’s Mountain Language is dense with symbolism, meaning and emotion but sparse on the word count, which makes it a very quick read but one that needs to be mulled over and considered for a long time after finishing.

Mountain Language is a brutal assault of a play. Pinter specifically wrote it to be set anywhere and applicable everywhere. It is a play comprising four brief vignettes or scenes set around and inside a prison. There is torture and systematic oppression but most of it is implied rather than shown on stage.

The prison guards are part of the ruling class/culture/race and have outlawed the mountain language spoken by the people of the area.

OFFICER: Your language is forbidden. It is dead. No one is allowed to speak your language. Your language no longer exists.

Waiting to find a loved one are an elderly and a young woman. They are the mother and wife of a man held prisoner and the elderly woman’s hand has been bitten by a guard dog.

OFFICER: Who did this? Who bit you?
YOUNG WOMAN: A Dobermann pinscher.
OFFICER: Which one? […] What was his name? […] Every dog has a name. They answer to their name. They are given a name by their parents and that is their name, that is their name! Before they bite, they state their name. It’s a formal procedure. They state their name and then they bite.

The officers’ rules and statements are absurd, but the way they are delivered and received let the reader/audience know they are deadly serious. To ask a question or make a statement is dangerous. To simply exist or speak your own language or even look a particular way is a potential death sentence. Reason and argument no longer exist in this brutal regime.

This is why Mountain Language could be anywhere. It’s a play for every regime that has persecuted the indigenous population, for every fanatic group that sets out to destroy other religions, for occupied countries all over the world.  Those of us who live in countries with freedom of speech and dress and personal rights are fortunate indeed.

Publisher: Faber and Faber

Cast: 6M, 2F

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