Thursday, 29 June 2017

Turkeys and Gems

We try to see as much theatre as we can as it's obviously important for us to stay in touch with what's happening in the 'real' world. In our travels we come across gems and turkeys and you get to wondering how turkeys reach the table? Especially at venues like the National Theatre.

Two recent examples were 'Salome' and 'Common'.

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The set of 'Common'
Of Salome my Facebook comments were: 
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Salome pre-set
It was a bit like being whacked around the head by a religious tome whilst being declaimed at by a ranting radical poet. 20 mins in I was battling for survival and by the end the cast looked like they'd been thumped too. The most low energy curtain call you will ever see!

While of 'Common' I said:
Clearly It was double-common in olden-past to mouth-speak in double- tongue so that every-all thing- bit you say-quote-mouth is at least-rarest twice-doubled. But it was so/thus annoying-overstylised that people-folk turned to murder-killing rather-instead of having-must to listen-hear this anymore.A play that would suit a small fringe in the round show rather than the huge expanse of the Olivier stage where it got somewhat lost.And it was pretty one-paced again like Salome- a lot of overly dense poetic prose being fired at you in a bucolic accent.I liked the speaking crow though.A lot of people- folk Left- abandoned at the interval-break. Can kind of see why. Naaaaah. Again......
And to be fair the critics were even less kind on both shows. So how does so much money get thrown at these productions and is this right?
Both shows were new commissions and both from established playwrights - Yael Farber (Les Blancs) and DC Moore (Town, War in Afghanistan) and it's great to see new works being encouraged onto the big stages. But surely at some stage of the creative process there needs to be a level of quality control? The problems with 'Salome' in terms of style and pacing were so obvious one wonders what Rufus Norris does for his day job. And I understand 'Common' went through scything cuts during previews but even these failed to help the play make sense (or be any less annoying linguistically). Salome in particular was very big on tech. It looked fantastic - 'all fur coat and no knickers' as the saying goes. But at least they were both NEW!
As for Gems, in amongst the triumphant revivals (e.g. 'Angels in America'), classics (Andrew Scott's Hamlet) and more modern re-takes (Life of Galileo) that we've seen recently there needs to be room for new things to be tried and to fail or else theatre descends into entropy with endless sure-fire, seat-filling old favourites. And it is interesting that three of the biggest 'transfers' of recent years, 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime', 'War Horse' and of course 'Harry Potter' were popular books before theatrical development. so maybe a little more safe.
The next 'classics' are still unwritten, so with the caveat that sometimes it's better to try out these things on a smaller scale before ploughing huge sums into shows, we cannot go forward without the ability to fail. And in some cases, fail spectacularly.

So we salute you, National Theatre, and especially the Travelex sponsorship which means we don't have to shell out to much for seats to watch failures!

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