Monday, 19 September 2011

Little Voice, Little Audience

This weekend I saw Hull Truck's production of Jim Cartwright's infamous play, 'Little Voice'. The play was first performed by Hull Truck, starring Jane Horrocks in the lead role, and has since been made into a film of the same name starring, Horrocks, Ewan McGregor and Brenda Blethyn.

The production was nicely set, and had real energy from the beginning. Little Voice here was played by Lauren Hood, who's singing voice was truly wonderful and showed the range of emotion and character in those she was impersonating, whereas the rest of the performance was also an impersonation, this time of Jane Horrocks, but lacking the sparkle Horrocks added to the role.

Mari Hoff, the mother, was here played by Helen Sheals. The performance overall was sketchy in parts, particularly in moments of humour where laughs were expected but seldom came.

This lack of guffaw cannot be solely attributed to the performers, however, but rather that awkward feeling you have when you are one of only a handful of people. For a Saturday matinee of a show like this one could expect a packed house, filled to the gills with families, theatre goers and enthusiasts who had seen and loved the film. However, this show at the Rose told a different story. As I sat on my lone cushion in the pit of the theatre, I couldn't help but feel very isolated, as the remaining dozen of the audience sat 3 meters behind me and the action happened three meters in front. Inadvertantly my squirming had become part of the show.

My concern is who is going to the Rose Theatre? If the audience they were hoping to capture were people who enjoyed some light entertainment on a Saturday afternoon, they haven't succeeded. But then, does 'Little Voice' have anything to say the people of Richmond and Kingston in 2011?

My visit to the Rose this weekend left me thinking more about the theatre I was in rather than the show I watched. The audience numbers both saddened and angered me - not only because of this show but every subsequent ill-attended piece of theatre I've seen there. I was saddened that another theatrical resource isn't reaching out to the community it resides in - and angered for the same reason. Do the Rose know who their audeinces are? What they want? And what the're prepared to pay for? There are some serious questions to be asked, otherwise the future of this tehatre could be in jeopardy.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Running Headlong into the next Decade

Mark and I heralded the new term, and a new theatrical season by going to Decade, a show marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11. This Headlong show, in association with the National Theatre was a site specific piece in St Catherine's Dock (as a brief sideline, this as part of London I'd never been to before and was given a swift but very knowledgable tour by Mark. Well worth a visit).

I had no idea what to expect, and as we entered the seemingly non-theatrical, stark office building I had no idea what to expect. As we joined the cue into an American airport, complete with fear inducing metal detectors and burly American officials I was no nearer an explanation.

The show was set in the 103rd floor of the Twin Towers North tower. Once inside you were taken to your table for breakfast, surrounded by American waitresses and waiters, offered drinks, given menus and treated to a view over New York.

What followed was a bringing together of new writing about 9/11 and it's legacy 10 years on (writers such as Alecky Blythe and Mike Bartlett are amongst the 20) along with physical theatre sequences, songs, monologues and audience interaction and participation. The space was used to it's full, truly exploring the site specific nature of the place and exploiting it's glass corridors and stairways.

Specific mention should be made for two specific pieces, both featuring Tobias Menzies who was shining throughout. The first, a monologue (we presume by Alecky Blythe, although the pieces are not attributed to their writers) where a British worker from the tower firstly discusses how they narrowly missed the event by simply swapping shifts - but also a much deeper story of possible conspiracy surrounding the explosions and a suspicious security bypass in the days before 9/11. The beauty of this has to be given to the performance by Menzies, simple and direct - direct enough so you acknowledge his beliefs, but the emotion behind the story was palpable.

The second, a scene within the editorial offices of the Daily Mail really captured the media's position - cowardly, obnoxious and and emotionally devoid. Again, Tobias Menzies gives a sterling performance as a Piers Morgan type figure, and like Piers Morgan the audience revel in hating him.

The downsides - the show clocks in at around 3 and a half hours! (although it has since been shortened by half an hour). Although the inclusion of the writers material is, of course, important, one couldn't help but yearn for Rupert Goold to be a little more ruthless with his
pencil. Some scenes seemed small and inconsequential in comparison to others and, although showing a different perspective, seemed more style over substance. By adding the more physical aspects of the show too, which were not always necessary and rarely perfected, you started to resent the performance making later, more substantial pieces almost impossible to make an impact.

Putting all this aside, I've found this blog very difficult to write. I don't want to be negative about this show, because to be negative would suggest I felt something. I actually left the space feeling surprisingly apathetic towards the show. The subject matter is so emotive and personal to everyone, that the show didn't seem to measure up to the reality of the situation and how the event has affected our lives. I think I'm still unsure what the show was trying to say, and whether including the work of so many writers was the right way to do it.

I believe the show has been edited since the first night and I'd be interested in seeing this again and where the axe may have fallen.