Clowning with SurvivalnAlan Ayckbourn: Ten Times Table;nGlobe Theatre, London.nAlan Ayckbourn is nowadays regardednon both English-speaking sidesnof the Atlantic, as the supreme techniciannof the modern comedy scene. His latestnoffering, entitled Ten Times Table, hasnother ambitions. It aspires to convincenthe viewer about the socio-moral virtuesnthat derive from victorious bungling,nallegedly an arch-British specialty. Mr.nAyckbourn sets out to suggest, in a quasisymbolicnmanner, that the magic exorcismnfor England’s contemporary ills andnsores may be concealed in such a philosophynof life and politics. There’s somethingnto it, as the British, through a goodnchunk of history, have always made funnof themselves, trying to convince thenworld of their good-humored naivete andndimwittedness, sprinkled with snobbishnposes and supercilious idiosyncrasies,nwhile, in the meantime, conquering orncontrolling a good chunk of the samenworld to their advantage.nThis time, the story is about their ownndomestic survival. Aykbourn constructsna generally static anecdote that dragsnthrough two acts about a provincial setnof social doers who sit at a table in anshabby hotel restaurant and plan an historicalnpageant to bring back a littlennational glory to their sleepy town. 1 hisnnoble design is to be frustrated and abusednby non-English extremism: an attemptnby a neurotic leftist and a psychopathicnfascist to take advantage of the situationnand promote their goals, but, in thenclimactic last act, they end up eliminatingnone another, defeated by the good-humorednEnglish bungling, dimwittednessnand naivete. It is also meant as a gentlensatire on socio-ideological polarization,nand if the contemporary Englishmannbelieves that that may be a metaphoricnsolution to his country’s quite real prob­nlems, we can only wish that this kind ofnhappy survival will come true.nHowever, the leftist is much more ofnan idiot than the authentic coUectivistsnin the trade unions and Labour Party’sncurrent team of extremists seem to be.nThe rightist’s tics announce his ideologynby manic facial expressions, exactly likenthe bad, mad Germans in Hogan ‘s Heroesnused to do, and this time it seems as ifnMr. Ayckbourn misses by far both thenScreenncomedic and the literary point. He populatesnthe stage with familiar charactersnand paraphernalia: a very hoary, veryneccentric lady, a kind-hearted fool asnpersonification of common sense, a sexstarvednmiddle-aged spouse, a grotesquenmasquerade and inevitable pratfalls. Thenfinal limbo, full of shooting, smoke andnslapstick, is supposed to herald that happyndays are here again, and if not alreadynthen very soon. (ES) DnStylization, Charmlessness and KitschnThe Last Waltz; directed by MartinnScorsese; United Artists.nHeaven Can Wait; directed by WarrennBeatty and Buck Henry; written bynWarren Beatty and Elaine May; ParamountnPictures.nGrease; directed by Randal Kleiser;nwritten by Bronte Woodward; ParamountnPictures.nby Eric ShapearonOnce upon a time, Armstrong wasnstyle (and bonhomie), Bessie Smith wasnstyle (and social poignancy), Ellingtonnwas style (and irony and finesse andndynamics of the musical imagery). ThenBand, a most venerated rock ensemble,nwhose last concert is the content andnsubstance of Scorsese’s audio-visualpoeticncommentary—is all stylization.nClothes, faces, countenances of thenpeople in The Band and around it eithernderive from or adopt the principle ofnimitation as the source of art. The Bandnis surrounded by a host of musical sup-nEric Shapearo reviews spectacles for thenChronicles.nnnporters whose most elevated artistic goalnseems instant impact through pretense.nThus, drug addicts pose as weatherbeatenncowboys, a rat-like Bob Dylannmolds himself into a folk tribune in anMississippi gambler’s attire. A whirlwindnof stylized artistry and tonality emergesnfrom the stage and naturally saturatesnthe audience which—as does every audience—indulgesnin the raptures of identification.nWhat occurs is a giant sham: anfashionable trend is presented as style,nbeing in fact just stylization, that is, anshallow and infertile adoption of styles.nBy now, we know it as homily thatneverything which was transformed intonAmerica’s most potent cultural messagencomes from the musicality that crystallizednalong with the lower course of thenMississippi River and its delta. Americannnative music in all its variations is basednon the novel treatment of the musicalnmatter that emerged in the South, mostlynNew Orleans, branched out everywherenin the country, and blended countlessninfluences and traditions. Rock’n’roll, asnwe know it now, is primarily this music’snurban version dating from the ’50s, butnin the ’60s it degenerated into an idio-niS3nChronicles of Culturen