Each His Own Wilderness at the Orange Tree theatre in Richmond

A lovely evening yesterday – went to see ‘Each His Own Wilderness’ play written by Doris Lessing (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature) at the Orange Tree theatre in Richmond with a friend. We cycled to the theatre (mainly because the traffic was awful) which only added to fun we both had!

A brilliant ambitious piece of writing, very captivating throughout with some very engaging dialogues. It’s 1958 and Tony (back from National Service) disillusioned and dissatisfied, finds his mother still the political activist she’s been since her youth. To Myra (his mother), Tony’s attitude is a mystery – where’s the anger?

The play explored many areas, one being a restless Bohemianism which lead Myra (and her friend) to a complex, erotic entanglement with the younger generation and exposed all the fault-lines in their own generation’s complacency.

Tony in turn is totally disillusioned with all the ‘values’ he has been forced to live through all his life – his comments are full of sarcasm and expose things as they are (well, in his eyes). He decides not to continue his architectural degree and becomes an electrician instead longing for a quiet, normal and ordinary life (‘all we want is to be left alone’).

There were many conflicts on many levels i.e. political (socialism values v capitalism), social (privileged v poor) and personal (mother v son). All very moving, all full of poignancy and exposed ‘truths’.

There are of course no rights or wrongs in all these, the play ends rather somber with Tony and Myra falling out with one another despite their good intentions not to. Myra sells the house (in good faith in order to fund Tony’s trip to travel the world to ‘open his eyes’) which in turn sends Tony into a rage as the house was the only stable, safe thing he considered to have in his life. He confronts his mother for not being able to provide him with a secure, safe upbringing, being concerned with ‘blowing up the balance of things’ just for the mere sake of it.

At the end they both go its own ways, Myra shocked that her 50-years as a mother (‘I had organised all my life around your needs’) led to a totally different ‘outcome’ (a failure?) that she could ever imagine. And Tony shocked by his own mother’s incapacity to provide him with love and stability he was always longing for.

One may think it is normal that the younger generation always turns its back against the older one but being able to ‘witness’ it from up-close-personal-angle made it looked rather hidious. It sent goose-bumps down my spine as I would never like the relationship between me and my children to deteriorate to that degree.

One is forced to think to what extend the political and social circumstances are to be blame for this and to what degree the personal characteristics and individual upbringing played its part.

Either way its always best to live your life carefully and try to understand and engage with the things as soon as they appear in our/ our children’s lives. We probably cannot always prevent many fall-outs but seeing them coming and trying to engage on different levels may hopefully make some difference to the way things turn out at the end.

It comes to a point when misunderstanding is so great that not even mutual love is capable of overcoming it. Or was it a true love between Tony and Myra in the first place? I think it was… But it did not help them to overcome their differences and they were forces to take separate ways, bruised and disillusioned with one another and the place their own life choices have brought them to. Each lost in His Own Wilderness…..

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