Thursday, August 23, 2007
Pretty In Pink
Adults playing children on stage – it’s always a fine line. When done well, as in Amelia Bullmore’s Mammals a couple of years ago at the Bush, the incongruity can add to the overall comedy of a piece, or as with the work of Shared Experience, it just somehow fits with the overall style of the production, but more often than not it can break the spell. Watching a chap with a bald patch sitting on the floor playing with toy trains, as I did in some show or other recently, can be a little distracting and – worse – unintentionally amusing, especially in an otherwise naturalistic play.
There were a fair few adults playing kids in Ma Vie En Rose at the Young Vic. But because of the essentially dreamlike nature of the piece it wasn’t quite as jarring as it sometimes can be. This was an adaptation of Alan Berliner’s film of the same name (which I haven’t seen) about a seven-year-old boy, Ludovich, who dreams of being a girl. Director Pete Harris has chosen to stage it as a dialogue-less, music-driven piece with the six main characters played by professional actors and the rest of the cast played by members of the local Southwark community.
The stage of the Young Vic’s cold, concrete-walled Maria studio had been covered with turf and the bench seating with scratchy grocers’ grass. A small group of musicians sat in one corner. I was worried this wordless approach wouldn’t be enough to sustain an, admittedly short, performance, but while there were a few rough moments, they just about pulled it off. There was a very entertaining sequence where the cast played a bunch of schoolgirls and boys in the playground, the girls skipping and singing as the boys fight one another and play football. Another scene, where the mother tries to cut her son’s treasured long hair was also well-handled, the torment of all concerned well portrayed. However I'm still a little bemused as to who the show was aimed at. It had some very dark moments - at one point Ludovic tries to kill himself by shutting himself in the deep freeze - but its messages about acceptance and identity were fairly simplistic, and it all felt a little bit worthy in a way that the Young Vic's similar community project, Tobias and The Angel did not. The musical accompaniment was also rather repetitive and twiddly for my tastes, and while I was glad that it didn’t do too much emotional sign-posting, a bit more, I don’t know, oomph, wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Speaking of oomph, it was in plentiful supply at Brick Lane’s sweaty, purple 93 Feet East on Monday. I had gone there to see a band called Devotchka, a Grammy-nominated-but-not-really-that-well-known-over-here four-piece who, apparently, provided the soundtrack for hit indie flick Little Miss Sunshine. I didn't know much about them, but I'd been told they might be up my street, so I gave them a go. Their music combines Eastern European-influenced rhythms with the feel of a mariachi band and their material is unapologetically anthemic and sweeping - songs to sway to is a fairly apt description I think, preferably with a wine bottle held aloft and a drunken friend draped on your shoulder. I don't think I'll be dashing off to Amazon their albums, but I enjoyed the evening a lot. And I now know what a sousaphone looks like, which has enriched my life no end.