Is it just me? Or do you loathe a long play, too? asks LIBBY PURVES

Is it just me? Or do you loathe a long play, too? asks LIBBY PURVES

  • A three-hour Chekhov and five hours Elena Ferrante is showing in UK theatres
  • Libby Purves relishes being made to concentrate without distractions or snacks
  • However, she says theatres may have to adapt to shortening attention spans 

How long is too long to sit in a warm room, concentrating? The National Theatre has raised eyebrows with a three-hour Chekhov and five hours of Elena Ferrante. People with sensitive bladders and trains to catch are complaining. Others can’t survive without provisions.

Maybe it’s because authors are unwilling to cut; maybe directors loftily presume that once we’re trapped in a plush seat, they own our attention. But the long show is having a moment, despite a counter-trend for plays of 90 minutes with no interval. It’s equally hard on the bladder, but at least you’ll have time to get a panini afterwards.

I rather relish being made to concentrate without distractions or snacks. Epics can fly by: at the end of Kevin Spacey’s Richard III (nearly four hours), I was sorry it was over and faced the late train bravely.

Libby Purves argues shortening attention spans may soon cause theatres to adapt, as a three-hour Chekhov and five hours of Elena Ferrante raises eyebrows (file image)

But we have suffered: an eight-hour version of The Great Gatsby (three intervals) was the only time I ever saw theatre critics voluntarily share their Rolos. Some West End first nights hit four hours and end with desperate train-catchers barrelling up the aisle to escape.

And as social media and Netflix reduce everyone’s concentration span, maybe theatres will have to adapt.

Yet cinema also spreads like an oil-slick. The orc-slashing tedium of Lord Of The Rings sent me to sleep, and ever fewer films stick to the traditional 100 minutes.

Emma is two agonising hours of bonnets, dances and people finding their pew in church. Divorce movie Marriage Story calls itself ‘compassionate’, but at 137 minutes has no mercy.

And while stage actors deserve their curtain-call, sometimes you just have to dive for the exit door and reclaim your life.

Source: Read Full Article