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The theatre’s promotional blurb warns that Steven Berkoff will go “where no one dares: inside Harvey Weinstein’s head”. Berkoff does as billed, with a 45-minute dramatic monologue imagining the inner world of the disgraced Hollywood film mogul, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault and rape. Weinstein denies all claims of nonconsensual sex.
But for all its promise to those who want to peer, imaginatively, into the dark heart of the #MeToo story, this production – written, directed and solo performed by the 81-year-old Berkoff – presents little beyond what we know from the headlines and the graphic allegations.
Berkoff’s Harvey is unwilling – or unable – to search far into his soul. Instead, he is caught in a repeated cycle of denial, blame, regret and rage, so that the evil on show reveals nothing more than its own banality. Even if this is the point, the endless repetition does not make for gripping drama.
Harvey emerges in T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, shoulders slumped and face unshaven. An initial, lugubrious voiceover summarises his rise and fall: “Oh Harvey … over 80 women have come forward … After all those films: sex, lies and videotape, The Crying Game, Pulp Fiction, for which you won an Academy Award …”
The set is a prison cell with an interrogation-room quality. The stage is vast and empty except for a red leather chair and footstool spotlit at its centre. Berkoff has always presented a forceful physicality on stage, so it is puzzling that he remains seated and static for most of the play. He stands up towards the end and comes alive in body and voice, but he quickly sits back down and the effect is lost.
Berkoff’s characterisation does not tunnel far down into the psyche, but the emotional switches from blame to self-loathing do at least capture the paradox of misogyny. Just beneath the surface of Harvey’s hate of the beautiful women he encounters (“The money they spend on their lips and hips and tits”) is deep-seated physical inadequacy (“You are fat and ugly”), the fear of rejection (“No bitch is going to fantasise over you”), and a grubby, pubescent sexual yearning (“Flesh, flesh!”).
There is little complexity, or narrative variety, beyond this. We do not learn anything of Harvey’s early life that might have provided psychological clues to his behaviour. Neither is there a detailed backstory around his wife and children who are only briefly mentioned. Berkoff has claimed there is an antisemitic subtext in the reporting of the Weinstein case, and it seems like a missed opportunity that his play does not touch on that complex ground, either.
The drama ends up as neither tragedy nor the dark farce David Mamet has promised in his forthcoming Weinstein-inspired drama. The audience is cornered into a discomforting voyeurism as we listen to his justifications, self-pity and victim-blaming: “They don’t have to come to me in a hotel room. There’s no gun to their heads.”
The monologue is interspersed with periodic voiceovers by unnamed victims who narrate accounts of forced fondlings, masturbatory assaults and hotel-room rapes. Alongside, there are graphic mentions of semen-spurting by Harvey himself, with occasional apologetic asides for his language: “It just comes out of my mouth. I’m sorry it’s disgusting. There are some ladies here.”
The production makes clear, on the night, that this is a work-in-progress, and Berkoff has a script with him on stage (although to those buying tickets online there is nothing to indicate that the play is still being workshopped). It is when he forgets his lines and riffs his apologies that we are reminded of Berkoff’s natural ease and charisma on stage. Unfortunately, they are wasted on Harvey.
Source: The Guardian
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