Archives 'Performance'

28 October
ibrews

A-

Hoo-rah!

  • Incredible technical achievement. They made a film in real time, with all of the elements from acting to voice-over to sound to cameras visible to us in all of their beautiful artifice. The music wasn’t played live, but it still had to be synced in real time- still quite an achievement.
  • Perfect space for the performance. Open, cold, workshoppy, raw. I loved the way that the narration had an extra layer of real-time, natural echo, which was further enhanced in moments when two actors were reading the same words.
  • Also thanks to the large space, there was a wonderful ‘prologue’ section before the show where all of the actors recounted their own ‘personal’ memory of the story of Orpheus and Euripides.
  • So much fun to see hands, feet, face, chest, etc. all played by different actors, but cut together to look like the same person. This disorienting quality was one of the many ways the show explored the fickle nature of memory.
  • The ‘face’ of Orpheus and the ‘face’ of Euripides were both fantastic silent film actors– they conveyed so much through so little expression. I’ve seen a lot of film actors do terrible on stage, and a lot of stage actors do terrible on film. Big props to these two for pulling both off at the same time.
  • Loved the cinematography choices, and impressed that they never actually storyboarded anything. A lot of the shots, particularly the shots from below for the box and the water in the sink, felt very Breaking Bad.

Blech…

  • Because of coloring/lighting inconsistencies and the overall art-house film style, they should have followed suit with ‘…some trace of her’ and had the live film in black and white.
  • It was distracting to see people walk in front of the screen… it felt right to keep the ‘technical work’ and the ‘finished work’ separate. Or, rather than have this be a ‘necessary evil’, I wish they had found a way to have it mean something… maybe have people walk in front of the screen at moments when we’re supposed to be particularly aware of the artifice of the narrative medium… or something.
  • the final moments of the story, while beautiful, didn’t feel like it should have been the ending. Maybe it’s because the show as a whole was short, but there was a lot of time spent ruminating on moments (this is about memory after all!) and while I understand the end is the last time he sees her (therefore, the last ‘memory’), on a purely emotional level, it didn’t feel right to end there.
  • I wish Katie Mitchell and ‘…some trace of her’ was acknowledged as an influence.

26 October
ibrews

A-*

Hoo-rah!

  • The most skilled, talented acrobatic wunderkinds you’ve ever seen performing impossible feats, supported by a meh story.
  • Music was suitably epic, catchy, and moving. Listen to it all, but here’s one of my favorite songs: Pageant.
  • The moment you walk into the theatre, you are in a different world. Words like ‘iron’, ‘turrets’, ‘primitive’, ‘engrossing’, and ‘steampunk’ come to mind.
  • Love how much happened in the audience during the show, from charging armies to crazy swinging to drums to shooting arrows.
  • The space of the stage changed so many times and in so many different ways. It was an ocean, a jungle, a beach, a cliff-face, a boat, underwater, a factory. What I found most impressive about these transformations wasn’t the multitude of beautifully-designed giant set pieces, but rather how the big rectangular slab was used in so many different ways, based on how it rotated and what was projected onto it. Most impressive was the near-vertical cliff face being shot full of arrows that the performers swung from, and the final battle that gave us a plan view of the conflict through some incredible wire-work.
  • Speaking of wire-work, there was surprisingly little for such dangerous feats. The most stomach-twisty moment was when two guy alternate flipping and jump roping a top a massive spinning set of two wheels, performing their most dangerous stunts in moments of free fall. I was well aware that if something went wrong, they were likely to break their neck down on the edge of the big rectangular slab below.
  • Rescuing the drowning mother underwater was both heartbreaking and beautiful. Loved the technical achievement of creating bubbles and simulating swimming, especially contrasted with the real swimming of Le Reve (which made me realize how weird it was that we never saw anything under water in that show)
  • I was deeply invested and enthralled by the first twenty minutes of story and where I thought it was headed… but more on that in the Blech… section.

Blech…

  • Okay. Let me be clear. This grand spectacle, taken on its own complete terms, had almost nothing wrong with it. There was never a dull moment– every second was enamoring, from cute shadow puppets to epic battles. But the story. Oh the story. It wouldn’t have been so bad if you didn’t make me believe right from the moment the show started that there was something epic to be told here. But you did.
  • Here’s the story as it was told, along with what I was thinking during it: open on a happy brother and sister doing crazy kendo battle at an insane speed. Over that, we hear a deep narrator give the only words of the entire show; something like: ‘this is the story of the two imperial twins and how their conflict moves an entire nation into the chaos of war.’
    Holy crap I’m so freakin’ excited. This is going to be like ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ meets ‘Blood Brothers.’Sure enough, it’s not long before the twins are separated in a struggle (you could say one was abandoned) and they’re being raised in separate tribes.
    Oh my God– they’re going to grow up and do battle on opposite sides of the same war!
    They both fall in love with tribe members. For one of the twins, there’s also a case of unrequited love.Oh Jesus, when they do battle, the lover of twin A is going to kill the lover of the twin B, and that will cause twin B to kill the lover of twin A, then twin A will kill twin B, then when twin A is the only important character left living, weeping in despair, the jealous unrequited lover of twin B kills twin A in vengeance! This is going to be glorious!!

    But… no. They each have their own adventures, then finally find each other, and rather than resentment or anger or a battle, we get a ditzy hug between them. And they team up and have one last battle with nameless villains.

    Wait, it’s over? Uh… cool? But… wait! What? Oh, blueballs.

  • Basically, I love shows that end with everyone dead, and also, after seeing several Matthew Bourne dance productions that told nuanced, emotional, evocative wordless stories, I thought I was about to witness something with a similar depth, but on a grander scale. I was simply mistaken.

 

*Because I had such incredibly high hopes for this show based on where I thought the story was taking me, my immediate reaction coming out of the theatre was C+. That aggression has passed and I’m now able to appreciate the show on its own terms. After all, apparently Cirque shows never have anything close to a semblance of a story, so I appreciate what I can get.


25 October
ibrews

B+

Hoo-rah!

  • A series of beautiful, intense, death-defying tableaux that encompass every incredible feat you could possibly imagine involving water in a one-million-gallon capacity theatre.
  • While there was always a ‘main event’ to focus on in the center, the performance is wonderfully designed for a theatre-in-the-round by making the entire ensemble perform symmetrical actions pinwheeling out. Thus, you get to see the stunning ‘secondary’ performances from nearly every angle, perfectly synced.
  • This is technically an absolutely genius show. One moment, there’s a 30-foot tree rising out of the water. The next, someone is flipping through the air from 80-feet up, landing in the water right where that tree just was. There was also a myriad of awe-inspiring choreography below the surface that either involved people breathing through oxygen masks, sticking their head in some kind of air-filled room, or breathing underwater (I have no idea…)
  • The lighting (done by my company’s namesake, Jules Fisher) was magnificent. I particularly appreciated the manner in which it plays off the audience and makes everyone look like part of the performance.
  • The lead dancer/actress had boobs! Real boobs. This may seem like a strange thing to call out, but this was a big deal to me for a couple of reasons. First, she was gorgeous and incredibly skilled. Second, there is a very narrow range of body-types you find in professional dancing, and curves (or any percentage of body fat for that matter) tend not to make the cut; typically you see flat, hard-as-a-board, super-skinny, super muscular women. I have no problem with that inherently, but the change was refreshing. It also made her super easy to pick out in a sea of 50 muscle-madness women.
  • When getting seated, I noticed the VIP seats have screens that show you backstage. I wonder if it keeps showing you that during the show? I would love that– like watching the ‘making-of’ disc of a movie while the movie is playing.

Blech…

  • The story was laughably cheesy and simple-minded. I think it’s really only stomach-able if you’re here on a date night and can project your own romantic, more nuanced narrative onto it. The story in a nutshell (spoilers!!!): girl loves a guy, he proposes, she isn’t sure, falls asleep on a park bench, has a wet dream, wakes up, marries him. Yeah…
  • A calloused man might say the show is ‘just a lot of splashing.’ I don’t disagree, but it was truly epic splashing.
  • The show was essentially over after only an hour, and the ‘wedding cake encore’ performance was clearly an addendum.

15 October
ibrews

B+

Hoo-rah!

  • Loved the format and style of the whole production– particularly the newspaper headlines and the Blood Brothers as MCs with cryptic little introductions to each play. And I appreciated that they acknowledged their debt to the Crypt Keeper.
  • Watching an episode of Community today, Abed says something like ‘we only respect horror films where the characters make choices we would make.’ While I really don’t like any horror films save maybe Cabin in the Woods, I enjoyed these shows because the characters were well-written and made genuine choices. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that these are all based on true stories, but I still applaud the writers for their interpretations.
  • Nice variety of themes is the plays– yes, there’s a crazy killer in each one, but I appreciated the unique nature of each and the forces guiding their stories.
  • The one I enjoyed the most: dating show with serial killer. Loved the way his insane answers and fantasies were reacted to as though they were the typical cutesy adorkable answers typically given on those kinds of things.
  • The one I respect the most: gay porn star serial killer wants to be famous, so films his exploits, obsesses over his Google Alert. Oh, and in a surreal part 2, is tortured by spiky dildos by anthropomorphized  versions of the cute fluffy animals he killed.
  • The one the disturbed me the most (in the most dramatic manner): Bible-obsessed kids show host drugs children, eats them, and uses them as puppets. This is the play that took the most liberties from reality but… Jesus.

Blech…

  • I found a few of the plays shocking, but without much drama. Guy with mental disorder mutilates himself. No thanks.
  • While I liked the idea of the wordless play with only a song guiding it, the story was very unclear.
  • Knowing all of these are true stories, sometimes the Blood Brothers commentaries on the events came off as unsavory and in bad taste.

8 October
ibrews

A-

Hoo-rah!

  • Love the reconstructed Globe stage and how they still treat the audience like groundlings (they even keep the lights on!)
  • Such a playful production, and it worked. Hamlet can be a real downer (which is fine– it’s clearly in the text), but this was actually a lot of fun.
  • The play within a play was indescribably hilarious and masterful.
  • Loved the use of sound and music– from the opening and closing songs to the ambient noises punctuating key moments of the play. They used a violin bow on a cymbal!
  • Loved the pace (no pun intended). The play was nearly 3 hours but felt like half that.
  • All 8 of the actors were fantastic and filled the 20-odd roles extremely well. I particularly enjoyed seeing the same actor play Claudius, Hamlet’s father, and the King in the play within a play.
  • The actor playing Hamlet reminded me a little of a young Ralph Fiennes in his cadences and expressions, and that’s never a bad thing.

Blech…

 

  • I was distracted fairly often by the costume changes and whatnot happening backstage. It wouldn’t have been hard to close off the audience’s views to this and I don’t know why they didn’t.
  • By making it a ‘fun’ production, some of the dramatic weight was lost. I’m typically close to tears at the end of Hamlet and didn’t feel it this time.
  • Likewise for the speed– the pace kept it entertaining, but there weren’t a whole lot of pregnant pauses to allow for an exploration of the weight of a moment.

 

Wacky side note: My wife Liz and I had some crazy telepathic synchronicity during this production and afterwards found ourselves with basically the same proposal. Today, audiences are smart and they’re pretty darn familiar with the story of Hamlet. Why not spice it up a bit and remove some of the ‘givens’? What if Claudius didn’t kill Hamlet’s father? What if Hamlet is truly insane and is the only person who sees his father’s ghost? What if Hamlet killed Ophelia? What if when Claudius is praying, he’s praying for Hamlet’s mental health– maybe  he truly cares for the boy? What if Hamlet is responsible for his own father’s death? What’s interesting to us is not making any of this overt, but like the ending to such films as Inception and Looper, why not provide enough evidence to allow audience members to make a case either way? Don’t have Claudius confessing to the murder. Don’t have the guards see Hamlet’s father. Allow for the reaction Claudius has to the play within a play to be a debatable one. Maybe add a couple small scenes and remove a few that are too on-the-nose?

 

We think this would be fun. What say you?