THE FLESH MADE REAL
On Steven Berkoff’s HARVEY, (East Productions, 2019)
Berkoff’s first departure from Plays, was his seminal book, Gross Intrusion,
A collection of stories so potent, that both blood and the heart achieved voice,
Coming together, as one, across the heart, flesh and senses,
While at the same time announcing desire’s intent to trap choice.
And so it proves here in this new monologue about Weinstein,
By crawling into the ear of the ingrate, to source full expression
Through a cigar sucking mouth and snaked cock, Berkoff gets to grips
With the beast, as well as the serpent, reared as they are,
For temptation, which in turns wrecks the palace,
Forcing it to come crashing into unrepentant seas and sharp rocks.
With a woeful voiceover that lists the Harvey’s litany of achievements
Both in and out of his bathrobe, we examine Steven Berkoff’s own face
As it starts to populate Weinstein’s flesh, as he creates the confession,
By which he seeks justification for the natural shocks flesh is heir to
Once man made privilege attains place. ‘Its all a transaction,’
Harvey states, a phrase that is refrained and repeated, as Weinstein’s
Selfishness and self loathing is the supposed gold-diggers claim and their cost.
Harvey saw that as the way, Hollywood’s dark tradition, even if his sugar daddy,
Was more salty than sweet, as the boss,
He could have the pick of the crop,
Along with the staff, store and shopfront, as if his was the one destination,
Sending siren calls out from his cock. If what seems to be hundreds of women
Were lost, and in being found, quickly shattered, then it was in their terms
Of employment that this delusional man saw the right, to do as he did,
And to practically do as was bidden, something clearly captured in Berkoff’s
Performance; although older now he’s still raging, as that distinctive face
Looks for answers under a film studio’s judgement light.
Berkoff paints with pathos and lust and Weinstein’s chauvinism,
He shows how the fat man’s masturbation is the sad romance of the rose
That can never bloom fragrantly, but only show the thorns sown within us,
Catching the soul, tearing something that instead of reaching out
Will fall closed. Weinstein’s morals. His need to master beauty, while ugly;
The pale pretence at perfection that was to stain each beautiful girl
With his grime. Berkoff holds him up to the light by squatting in the darkness
Beside him, with nothing but false memory to confide in across a new eternity
Of wronged time. An imaginary cigar pleasures him. It is all he will have left of sensation.
The breathing in of past evil reminding him of soft lips, forced into sucking
All of the strength from the sour, a sick imitation of cinema’s shining kiss.
Harvey’s body is key to the traps he’s set waiting. Through his personal hell,
Enter heaven, by blessing the sort of skin most abhor.
The only beauty Harvey had lay in the films he engendered.
But what actual life they reflected could never be seen through locked doors.
Actresses were cut in mid career if they spurned him.
Production staff denigrated, masturbated upon, cauterised,
As if Weinstein’s sex crimes were a parody of love’s pleasure
False scenes, badly written, in which a sad man’s grunts passed as lines.
Berkoff’s play reveals that if you are born as he was with no true means to echo
The demands of the business of beauty that you have tried to establish in life,
You will stain the skin of your prey as well as the souls that you insult,
And this is what Berkoff essays as he raises questions, about those
Who knowing Weinstein’s reputation, betrayed their own prospects,
As Harvey betrayed kids and wife. The style is conversational, calm,
But with the expected crests and crescendos
That mark all of Berkoff’s plays, poems, stories, journals and shows,
As they’re staged. But there is also an improvisational air,
As the writer forgoes past poetics, to embrace words far more natural,
Intent on exploring easily relatable worlds, as he’s aged.
From his worlds of East End tempered myth, and the old Greek burn,
Via Shakespeare, Berkoff has peered over, and crashed down to earth
With this piece. To examine the current time and place while charting
The misapprehension and horror to do with those who bend power
Ttowards their own warped release. Jimmy Stewart’s giant rabbit, unseen,
Exert’s a similar fascination as Berkoff’s; this Harvey, once vivid,
Will soon be invisible, too, whether in prison, or port, as he sails to escape
Reputation, the gross intruder as exile, thanks to each corrupted kiss
Smearing truth. So, here is a new play from a man, unafraid of convention,
About a man who deceived it. And yet monsters like Weinstein will only
Ever reveal partial clues. For power stains and reshapes. Power mutates.
We perform it. As Berkoff does here. There’s no rabbit. And no hat, too.
At the gates of hell,
The fucked penetrator,
Worse than an actor, rejected,
Or former king turned to peasant,
Whose court has closed:
The heart’s fool.
David Erdos 27th July 2019