Friday, February 22, 2008

Signifying Nothing

What's slower than the G Train, full of Stalinist visuals and Hermann-esque "You are ordered to FEEL now" music, and engrossing without actually being exciting? (Or to quote Spice World, excellent, without actually being any good at all?) What else could it be but the Patrick Stewart Macbeth at BAM. It's sold out, it gets a standing ovation, and it is the perfect example of Peter Brook's Deadly Theatre in living (sic) action.

This production takes the cake, bakes it at 125 for 9 hours,
sings a Russian folk song over it, lights the candles by rubbing
two sticks together, and then sings "Happy Birthday" at 16 RPM.

What’s Deadly Theatre? It's people with embalming fluid in their veins, which makes it the polar opposite of Immediate Theatre, which has people with real blood in them. It’s where the stage is filled with animated statues rather than human beings, or actors who are always Acting with a capital A in a production that has been Directed with a capital D to present a Poem Untrivial with a capital PU. And shouting. A lot of shouting. Which is what British casts do when they perform a play in Americuh. To quote Ava:

I was delighted with Rock and Roll, apart from some jaw-dropping scenery-chewing. I asked Ester, "Do you think they always do it like that or is it just for here?""Here," she said.

[Heaving a huge sigh] Yes, here. Talk to my friend DJ about Ian McKellen's Richard III and you'll hear the same thing. As for me, when I saw Amy's View in London, it made me feel like I was sitting up on stage with Judi Dench going through what she was going through; but when I saw it on 45th Street, it made me feel like I was sitting in a theatre watching a bunch of incredibly subtle comedians tell nothing but dick jokes. That's what happens when the Brits play here. It's the rare transfer that doesn't shout itself hoarse to the second balcony.

So that's part of the problem here: the show is Deadly because that's perceived to be the only way to perform a play in front of Americans. And Deadly is not only shouting, it's pauses. Truckloads of pauses. A caution of pauses, to coin a phrase. In this production? There were about 10 minutes of pauses per hour, so by the end of the night about 25 minutes of the 2 hour 45 minute running time was dead silence. Operative word being dead. For example -- here's how Stewart delivered the "Tomorrow and tomorrow" soliloquoy:

Tomorrow (five second pause)
and tomorrow (five second pause)
[oh yeah] and tomorrow (five second pause)
[This concept totally surprises me] creep (pause)
[Isn't it amazing?] in this petty place (pause)
from day (pause)
to day (pause)
dow-ow-own (pause)
to the last "Sill Uh Bull" [I just LOVE saying it that way]
of re- (beat)
corded (beat)
time. (Really long pause to signify Time passing; audience eats it up)

Here's the production in a nutshell. It's also the perfect example of the difference between Deadly Theatre and Immediate Theatre. There’s a working sink on stage. In Immediate Theatre, somebody with blood on his hands will go to the sink, turn on the water, and wash the blood off. In Deadly Theatre, someone with blood on his hands will go to the sink, stand there with his hands held in front of him, and talk about crap. Then his wife will come on stage with blood up to her elbows and a big old splash of it on her nice green gown, and she’ll join him at the sink with her hands held in front of her, and unlike any actual human female on earth she will not even clean the blood from her dress, never mind the blood from her hands. She'll just stand there and talk about crap.

It's a fucking sink! Use it!!!

Sound? Check. Fury? Check. Signifying nothing? Check and double check. Talk about tales told by an idiot . . .

1 comment:

DJ Fuller said...

On the mark review. Such a disappointing production of a play that should be played trippingly on the tongue, yet there they were, sawing the air with their arms. And that damned Porter, 'remember the porter' indeed! "And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them, for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the mean time some necessary question of the play be then to be considered. That's villainous and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it."