By: Eric Schlosser
Directed by: Charlotte Westenra
Venue: Globe Theatre
Date: Friday 7th September 2007
Sadly, this performance wasn’t well attended, so we were able to spread out, even with the folk from the upper circle coming down to join us. Despite the relative lack of atmosphere, the cast managed a pretty good job, although there weren’t many more people on the ground than on the stage. Even so, we gave them a warm reception, especially the musicians, who played some interesting instruments and sang some unusual songs. These were two West African griot musicians, whose music was intended to remind us of the many Africans enslaved in America, and their exclusion from the whole process of drafting the constitution.
The play itself covered the period from just before the convention that ended up creating the US constitution, to the signing of it, and ended with a round-up of what happened afterwards to the main characters. I didn’t know much about this, so I found it all interesting, though the play does lack a dramatic focus. There’s so much to cram in that the characters are drawn a bit skimpily, and it takes a while to get to know who’s who, and what their vested interests are. Once the convention gets underway (with a long series of adjournments), the action mainly alternates between the convention room and the room next door where refreshments are served. This room is on a platform in front of the stage, as the convention room (the main stage) is chock full of tables for all the delegates.
There’s a fair bit of humour throughout the play, mercifully, as otherwise it would be dry as dust. The performances were remarkably good, given that the dialogue is pretty limiting most of the time, and overall it felt like a drama documentary rather than a play. It was hard to care about the whole process, although the need for the constitution had been explained pretty clearly, and the issues these men were debating are vital and interesting ones. It might have been better to have avoided the convention itself, and kept the play to the external scenes, although as the people involved were sworn to secrecy that might have made for a difficult time. But given the sealed nature of the convention room, it might also have been more interesting to have been kept outside, hearing the issues debated, perhaps by some of the minor characters (“This is the hand…”), and only finding out what’s been agreed at the same time as they do. The delegations were obviously wheeling and dealing in the intermissions anyway, so if that were included as well we could have quite an interesting and entertaining three hours. Anyway, we got what we got, and I was happy enough with it. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a text to take away, so I can’t pick up the few bits I missed, but that’s life.
© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me