Definitely The Bahamas – March 2012

6/10

By Martin Crimp

Directed by Martin Crimp

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 29th March 2012

This was the older of the two plays in this afternoon’s performance, and for us it was the more enjoyable piece. Done originally as a radio play, it worked very well in this staging; the cast set up the space as a radio studio, with tables and chairs at diagonally opposite corners, a sound desk far left from us, microphones suspended above each table and not much else. Obi Abili sat by the sound desk, but didn’t have any lines.

Done as a rambling reminiscence, we gradually learned about these two characters, Milly (Kate Fahy) and Frank (Ian Gelder), their son and daughter ( I forget their names now) and Marijke (Lily James), their au pair. The brightness of their opening chatter took a darker turn, with hints of sexual abuse, but while there were fewer laughs later on, the whole play had a lot of insight into human nature which made it interesting for us.

The humour mainly came through the communication between Milly and Frank, and after all our years of marriage, Steve and I could recognise some of the patterns. They argued over whether an incident had happened in one place or the other, and although the conversation had moved on some time before, when Milly went out for a moment, Frank returned to the point of contention with “It was definitely the Bahamas”, which got a good laugh.

© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Play House – March 2012

5/10

By Martin Crimp

Directed by Martin Crimp

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 29th March 2012

This was an odd little play, a two hander about a young couple just starting out in married life. Done in short scenes, there was no definite storyline, just two declarations of love to bookend the piece and lots of odd snippets in between. There was an overall sense of the woman having a troubled past, with family members who had mental and emotional difficulties, while the man seemed more straightforward but did seem to enjoy being trampled on at times. The scenes spilled over into fantasy at times, so we weren’t always sure what had actually happened, but there was enough energy in the performances to keep us interested at least.

With a play like this it is all down to the performances, and the cast today did an excellent job of bringing these two people to life. Lily James as Katrina and Obi Abili as Simon made them believable and engaging, especially when they danced. They began to set up the props for the play themselves, before the start. There were two long benches, on the far left and right hand sides of the space. They each brought on various items and placed them carefully, and I noticed a few adjustments going on. Lily would place something down and Obi would move it slightly, only for Lily to readjust again next time she passed by. I don’t know if this was intentional or not.

The items were used in the various scenes, including a manky fridge which was brought on to be cleaned for an early scene. At the end, the benches and items were thrown around to create a barricade, with Katrina and either a baby or a doll behind it, and Simon attempting to communicate with her from the other side. It wasn’t clear whether she had a doll, or had taken someone else’s baby – from the timeline, it couldn’t be hers as she wasn’t noticeably pregnant a few weeks earlier. Either way, it was a fitting end to this strange play, and although it didn’t do a lot for me, it passed the time well enough.

© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Attempts On Her Life – May 2007

3/10

By: Martin Crimp

Directed by: Katie Mitchell + company

Venue: Lyttelton Theatre

Date: Thursday 10th May 2007

This was dreadful. Not all the way through, but it’s an hour and three quarters I’ll never have back again.

The performance style was based on modern media. The actors didn’t play specific characters, instead they morphed in and out of various roles, as well as moving cameras and lights around, filming other actors, then becoming the focus of the cameras themselves. There was a huge screen lowered down so the audience could see what was being filmed, intercut with footage shot previously and with pictures layered and superimposed. All very technical, but to what end?

The general idea seemed to be to look at the role of women in our media-driven society, and particularly issues around women committing suicide. There was no specific woman – it’s any woman. There’s a good section looking at the use of women as sexual objects of desire in advertising, in this case, advertising a car. The advert (in Russian?) was translated into English, so we could get the humour. At the end, the usual caveats are scrolled across the screen, and the combination of these over pictures of a sexy woman, make it clear that we’re not meant to read the words – it’s the advertising equivalent of small print.

Another good part was the Abba imitation – the style is as for one of their Eighties’ hits, but the words are much tougher. The police interrogation sketch didn’t work so well for me – there have been so many comedy send-ups, never mind Life On Mars, that I found most of it just boring. There was one good line, though, when the coppers are pushing this guy to sign his statement, and he says he hasn’t got a pen.

Apart from that, I enjoyed the Newsnight Review sketch, with recognisable imitations of regular participants, e.g. Germaine Greer. Otherwise, I could barely get through the turgid stuff that was passing for a theatrical performance. No criticism of the actors is intended, even though they participated in the staging. I just didn’t find this performance style remotely engaging, in fact, quite the reverse. The use of cameras, the screen, mikes for the actors, etc., meant the whole piece was distanced from the audience – we might as well have watched a film, and the actors might as well have been acting in an empty theatre for all the exchange that was going on between us.

The opening section showed a bit of promise. The prison doors of the stage curtain creaked open to reveal a vast open space, filled with the cameras, etc that took such a central role later on. All the cast are milling around, and finally come forward to talk through some ideas about a woman, like a group of creatives at an advertising agency. There are a few good lines, but mostly, it’s a jumble, and not at all clear where it’s going. However, I stuck with it (unlike one gentleman behind us), and, sadly, was disappointed. The chorus line effect was repeated at the end, only in an even more incoherent fashion, though as I’d pretty much lost interest by this time, I really didn’t care.

With no characters, plot or anything resembling a play taking place on stage, it was impossible to get involved in these performances or any of the issues raised. The distancing effects previously mentioned added to that, and I actually felt disrespected as an audience member, and increasingly irrelevant. For the first time, I chose not to applaud at the end. I will go a long way to avoid seeing anything this banal again.

© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me