(Paul Taylor's review appeared in The Independent, October 29.)

Pains of Youth, National Theatre, London

Camus thought that, in philosophy, suicide is "the only problem". It may not be the sole preoccupation of the six bored, sexually entangled medical students in the 1920s Vienna of Ferdinand Bruckner's brilliantly odd 1923 play Pains of Youth. But it is seen as one of only two alternatives open to the young in a post-First World War Austria of widespread social disillusion and personal instability. The play receives a very rare revival now in a Cottesloe production by Katie Mitchell that will, I suspect, divide critics in the manner that is traditional with this controversial director's work. I thought the play blackly exhilarating in its ruthless (often mordantly amusing) anatomy of anomie. I thought the strategic take-it-or-leave-it stealth production (as usual with Mitchell, one might have chanced upon a tribe that is so mesmerically intent on its own practices that it has not noticed the "concealed" observer) arrestingly pivoted at that point where the different leylines of painful tragicomedy exruciatingly cross.


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