Monday, August 31, 2009

Party poopers

It's not a good sign when an am-dram actor takes the time, in their programme entry, to tell the audience how little sympathy they have for their character.

Why would he do that? Isn't it an actor's job, to take on a persona that is different from their own? Actors routinely play staring fanatics, raving lunatics, psychopaths, rapists, child molesters and serial killers without feeling the need for any disclaimer. But playing a Labour politician - apparently, that's a step too far.

Perhaps that lack of sympathy explains why the actor kept forgetting his lines. He wasn't the only offender, but he was the worst by some margin. Which is a bad thing to happen, because the humour of farce depends on the audience identifying with the characters. That's hard to do, when the characters obviously don't identify with themselves.

It's a shame, because the company is better than this. Our past experiences with Shoreside Theatre have been pretty good. But their production of The Party Spirit was so lacklustre, we left at half time. I had a headache, and frankly the strain of trying to decide which lines were funny enough to giggle at was too much for me.

It was a good move, I think, to update the play from 1954 British to 2009 New Zealand politics. After all, who remembers the names and atmosphere of those times? The company's mistake was in trying to revive this horribly dated piece in the first place. They probably thought it was topical because it's a farce of political corruption and fiddling - but unfortunately, "topical" isn't enough to make it up to date. That would require the authors to assume that the audience had seen political dramas before.

We don't need every character to speak every thought that passes through their heads, and we don't need to see characters shaking their fists and chewing the scenery to know when they're angry. I can't speak for theatre audiences of 1954, but nowadays we actually like to be left some blanks to fill in for ourselves.

I'm reasonably sure we'll be going to the Pumphouse Theatre again. But not The Party Spirit - it's a piece of its time, best left buried.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For the life of me, I can't find what the original "The Party Spirit" is all about.

A generic Google search based in New Zealand gets the Bible's version before the Shoreside Theatre is listed.

A specific search including "1954" does list this blog, so yay.

Repeat paragraph 1.