"Blessed are they that lay down their garments."

J.P. Donleavy from The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B
Photo © 2007 Bill Dunn.
This review first appeared in The London News, Dec. 14, 1981.

"The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B"

Though I had not read J.P. Donleavy's novel, that made no difference to my often unwilling pleasure at his play. Unwilling because certain passages, before the autumn of 1968, might have whitened the Censor's hair &, unfashionably & unrepentantly, I still think that judicious censorship is good. Yet the happy side of this piece with its ridiculously alliterative title, is that - thanks largely to Simon Callow's zest as a free-spoken young man - the wilder passages can be amusing. We meet the principal figures in rooms at Trinity College, Dublin, from which they are very soon sent down, implausibly because a pair of local tarts in a steamer trunk. Later the oddest things happen to both young men, usually round Knightsbridge with one foray to Thames Valley. People who insist on a tidy plot with grow slowly demented; others will appreciate a skimble-skamble for the sake of the fun on the way. Two contributors to the fun are those expert comediennes, Lally Bowers & Sylvia Coleridge. But the occasion lives upon Patrick Ryecart as the quiet young man for whom there's no luck about the house, & Simon Callow as the bounder who, quite clearly, will never stop bounding. Throughout, the dramatist's prose has a curious stylized elegance. The piece might well be described as a modern Restoration comedy.

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