Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bad Beckett

Maybe I am (still) just in a bad mood, but I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about Lisa Dwan's Beckett Trilogy.  It got some awards in London and rave reviews here (see here and especially here).

I had to rush over to the theatre, since I was working late yet again.  Naturally, they held the theatre for a solid 15 minutes, which I thought was pretty inexcusable, especially as I don't think anyone entered during that time, though perhaps up in the balcony.  I don't think it started in earnest until 20 minutes after the hour. Then they were so, so serious, putting the entire theatre into a complete blackout for the entire show (not even the exit signs were lit).  That is generally a marker that you are taking yourself just a bit too seriously...

I agree that Not I is a bit of a tour de force where Dwan has managed to get through the speech 25% faster than anybody before her.  That may have been Beckett's intention, but I was only moderately interested in the piece the way it was presented.  And frankly that was the highlight of the show.

I hate to say it but I saw a much better production of Footfalls in Ann Arbor 25 years ago.  It wasn't a student production but it was basically an amateur production.  (Interestingly, I see that that summer (1990) they did Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.  I'm not quite sure why I didn't go,* since that would have been right up my alley.  I didn't see the show until I was in grad. school at Northwestern.)  I think my beef is partly with the text, which is completely obscure on why the young woman is called May in one section and Amy in the other (unless one of them (Amy?) is a daughter that grows old and becomes the old woman with a daughter named May?).  But beyond that, Dwan still had some annoying vocal ticks left over from Not I that spoiled the flow of the text for me.  I thought it was completely unnecessary.  And quite a lot of the dialog was carried by Dwan's recorded voice.  I know Beckett does this frequently, but honestly, I think there is a lot to be said for having an actual person offstage as the disembodied voice rather than working to a recording.

And this is the crux of the problem with Rockaby: 95% of the text is just a recording with Dwan sitting in the chair rocking and saying "More."  Frankly, not that impressive.  I have to admit I missed the subtle shifts in the way the text repeats and doesn't exactly repeat.  It was only in the 4th go-around that I really noticed the differences.  While this is on me, there was a parody of Rockaby that totally took the piss out of it.  I saw this twice in Chicago.  The set up is almost the same where a woman in a rocking chair says "More" very weakly, and then they played Croce's "Time in a Bottle."  The entire song.  Then they did this again and again.  I think the audience made it through 5, maybe even 6 times before they started throwing crumpled up programs and such to make it stop.  Good times.

So yeah, I actually do like Beckett a lot, but this just didn't work for me for all kinds of reasons, good and bad.

Anyway, I am taking a bit of a break from work, and now I have to finish hanging up Halloween decorations.  Fortunately, we have the candy bought already and the costumes more or less ready.  The weather looks like it will cooperate, which is great.  We'll probably head out around 6:30, but we expect kids from the neighbourhood dropping by from roughly 6-8.  Happy Halloween!

* Now this is very strange, though perhaps only of interest to me.  My dusty memory bank is now recalling that I was discussing the Stoppard show with one of my professors (the professor I had for Shakespeare actually) and we were at the Beckett performance.  Was I saying something about how I was looking forward to the show, or more likely that I wanted to see it but was going to be gone that summer?  I do remember thinking how one might attempt a spectacle on two stages back to back where Hamlet was performed on one side of the stage and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead on the other.  The audience would choose which version to see, though might be vaguely aware in the Stoppard play about the action on the other side (maybe a one-way scrim).  Most likely the pacing is such that they couldn't be interleaved that way, but I still think it is an awesome idea (in the abstract anyway).

What is even stranger is the faint possibility that I did see the show that summer.  I might have a journal entry that would clear it up one way or the other.  Nonetheless, I don't think I saw it back then.  Many of the plays I saw back then are somewhat burned into my memory, maybe precisely because I was such a novice to theatre and everything was new.  Now that I am older and more jaded, the productions from 10-15 years ago are all fighting for room back in the long-term memory.  As I said somewhere else, I've probably seen 400 or more plays over the last 30 odd years.  Curiously, I've not seen Beckett's Happy Days yet (to bring it back around to him), though I've seen Waiting for Godot and Endgame and now Footfalls twice.  The closest Happy Days is playing is Yale Rep next April, but I'm not traveling that far to see it.  Hopefully serendipity will strike and it will be playing closer in the coming years, and I can go.

No comments:

Post a Comment