Friday, September 9, 2011

Too Few Nights... or Too Many

Another reason I plan to see less live in HD theatre transmissions this year, is that I definitely saw less *live* theatre last year and that's not a good thing; there is nothing to replace the live experience, with that energy coming off the stage and flowing back from the audience. A film is a different animal, but an HD performance is not a film, and has not been designed to be one. It's a fine experience, but I don't like the idea of it replacing the live one.

I find myself often pondering what is for me a successful performance, versus what isn't. There is something about art that cannot be just categorized by whether you liked it or not; part of the decision comes from whether or not it was well done, but in any case I do seek to be affected in some way. At last year's Luminato Festival, I was moved and affected permanently by the performance of 2b Theatre Company's Homage (by Anthony Black). the question of who does art belong to, and who has the right to destroy it stayed with me and always will, I know, thanks to this very fine play.

This year, I only saw one performance at Luminato, and, in this instance, it was only the first half of the first of two parts! So, I saw a quarter of One Thousand and One Nights. I was very excited to see it, and took my father, not just because it was Father's Day, but that was a happy coincidence; also, he spent many years working in the Middle East, and we are both very drawn to the different cultural esthetics of that part of the world. The stories were adapted from the original legends by Lebanese novelist Hanan al-Shaykh and directed by Tim Supple. I read the director's notes and was intrigued by his discovery that these stories are not the sweet and childish fantasies of magic carpets and genies in lanterns. The entire performance was performed in English, French and Arabic, and part of the problem for me was that there was so much dialogue, that I spent most of my time reading the translations on the screens mounted at inconvenient places around the auditorium; it left me with little time to concentrate on what was happening on stage. What did happen felt very rushed. It was as though they were desperate to cram 1,001 nights into the entire performance time. It felt rushed and devoid of meaning; in the sheer quantity of stuff, there was little depth. Maybe it was for this reason that I felt disengaged, and, as we left at intermission - not to return - we commented on the fact that explicit violence and sex, including a stage full of huge strap-on black dildos, could not save what - to us - felt like an empty performance.

We retired to Mangia e Bevi and followed their advice: we ate and drank. Now there's some style and substance.


R.A.D. Stainforth said...

I think they may as well say in the press release, "Big strap-on dildos really lift this opera into the 21st century" so you can just say "Fuck it, I'm not going to see this crap" ...

Blog Princess G said...

I'm not sure that would have dissuaded me.