Friday, October 06, 2006

Three Plays in a Week

Been an incredibly busy week theatre-wise. On Tuesady night I traipsed out to the Yvonne Arnuad in Guildford to see the new adaptation of Jerome K Jerome's Three Men In A Boat. The gentle, anecdotal comedy of the novel is well suited for the stage but the rather creaky production was the most regional-theatre of all the regional theatre productions I've yet seen, pandering unashamedly to the mostly grey crowd, even pausing for a rather cringe-worthy but seemingly popular sing-along in the second act. (They couldn't keep everyone happy though, and one chap with a booming voice, and probably though I couldn't see him, a nice bushy moustache, kept loudly proclaiming his displeasure every time they veered even slightly away from the events of the book).

Wednesday night's show couldn't have been more different if it tried. The production of Kafka's Metamorphosis at the Lyric, by Icelandic company Vesturport, was intense and often very striking. Some critics seem troubled by the liberties it has taken with the text but my main problem was that alot of these physical theatre techniques already feel over-familiar, from the company's own Woyzeck (which played again in London earlier this summer) to the superb Nights at the Circus in which lead actor and director Gisli Orn Gardarsson also starred. My expectations were high and while I could see what they were aiming for, and could certainly admire some aspects of what they achieved, I ultimately felt rather let down.

I'm still mulling over last night's show. it was the opening night of the new production of Bent at the Trafalgar Studios. It was a glitzy affair, as these things go, with Graham Norton, Maureen Lipman and - apparently, though I didn't see her - Monica Lewinski amongst the audience. And though the play feels in many ways dated, it still has real power. I was less convinced by Alan Cummings central performance though. As Max, a man who, when arrested and sent to a concentration camp in wartime Berlin, would rather wear the yellow star of a Jew than the pink triangle of a homosexual, I found him rather mannered and tic-driven. His co-star Chris New, as fellow prisoner Horst, was stronger, he felt far more confident despite his relative inexperience.

It's very much a play of two halves. The first is a very OTT affair, bombarding you with broad comedy, sudden, brutal violence and dramatic sheets of flame, while the second half is altogether more subtle and successful. But though the tension was often unberable, I thoughht some crucial connection, some vital, human something, was lacking - I still can't quite put my finger on what.

After all that I'm looking forward to tonight, a laid-back evening at the flat with friends, movies, and maybe the odd cocktail. No, make that definitely, the odd cocktail...

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