They really made a monkey out of…

20 Aug

The estimable Old Vic in London is doing a production of one of my favorite old chestnuts, ‘Inherit the Wind’ (a play in which I played a pretty kickass Hornbeck in my Brearley theater cross-dressing days), and somehow the poster image has leaked, albeit sans info. And it is…. a little weird.



At first, I liked it. As an image, it’s beautifully done – striking, the colors contrasting nicely, and very simple, which I always like. But in terms of the play, it strikes me as one of those images that SEEMS like a really good idea, but ultimately isn’t.

‘Inherit the Wind’ is about the Scopes Monkey Trial, the trial of a biology teacher in America’s south in the 1940s. The biology teacher was arrested for teaching evolution instead of creationism in class, and the play is an excellent examination of an issue that continues to raise it’s ugly head even today. So the play deals with a trial, and Christianity, and monkeys, which is clearly where this image came from – someone swearing with their hand on a bible, as held by a monkey. And yet, what? What does this scenario actually mean? Does that make the baliff a monkey? Why is a monkey holding a bible? Do monkey hands even do that, holding something flat like that? And why does that monkey hand look so strangely un-monkey-like? And given that the play’s title is a rather obscure bible reference that few people know, will the combo of this image and that title mean that some people go to the theater thinking it’s some sort of mystical fairy tale?

The whole thing just gives me the icks. I admire the thought behind it, but sometimes a great concept does not a great poster make.


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