It’s been a very busy few months and, alas, little of it has involved the theatre. Between The Real Life stuff and the gouging of my pay cheque by the Irish Government, my theatre-going has been seriously curtailed.
I did manage to get to see Alan Rickman in Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman at the Abbey, and I managed to get to cast change of Wicked but that was about it for shows.
I’ve never managed to love Ibsen and I don’t know why I keep going to see his plays. Of all of them, Hedda Gabler is my favourite, but that’s about like saying beheading is my favourite method of execution. John Gabriel Borkman was okay. I suppose I had hoped the presence of Mr Rickman would elevate it in my estimation, but that was not the case. Alas, it felt more like Severus Snape had wandered into the wilds of Norway without his wand. The trademark voice intoned lines with that crisp. Bass. Dispassion. Like Captain Kirk on valium. Not Rickman’s fault, but the nature of the character. Borkman is like
Ibsen himself, I suspect: an essentially unlikeable character.
Fiona Shaw as Mrs JGB was more energetic and I’d love to see her again in something
else. Not by Ibsen. My caveats re the Norwegian chucklemeister and Mr Rickman’s underwhelming performance aside, the play was well staged and the set was exquisite — though any time you find yourself studying the architecture of the set during a show you know there are weighty problems with the script, the direction or the acting.
To be fair, the first couple of acts were interesting and the dynamic between Shaw and Lindsey Duncan (as Ella) was deft. Still, so much of Ibsen seems like exposition it’s hard to connect with the characters.
It was the third act, though, that had all the happiness of midwinter in a fjord. In a snow storm. The pace feels as frozen as the characters and by the time the eponymous hero falls face down on the ice my only reaction was one of relief that it was all over. Sorry, Mr Rickman, I still love you regardless.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I’m not a big fan of Wicked, but I had promised to give it a second chance and overall I’m glad I did. The muck-up matinee in February was splendid and everyone was on fine form, including the extremely enthusiastic audience. By then, the cast had gelled and settled into their parts.
To me, the story still seems trite and the characters clichéd; most of the music still leaves me cold. But the sets are sumptuous, the cast excellent, and the whole thing is played with an enormous sense of fun. There was a great feeling of camaraderie amongst the cast members and a sense of sadness at the departure of Lee Mead, George Ure, and the others who had opted to move on. I will be curious to see what projects they come up with next – even if the Irish budget limits what I will be able to attend.
After my last review of the show I received feedback — and plenty of it. Some readers thought my appraisal was right on the money; others wanted to see me boiled in oil. The reason for the polarity? My approval of Lee Mead’s performance as Fiyero. The anti-Lee contingent felt he was a poor leading man and were loud and, in some cases, acerbic in their disapproval. The pro-Lee group were equally vocal and appreciative. I promised myself after my first viewing of the show that when the opportunity presented itself I’d
take a second look. I will admit that the songs would probably grow on me with repeated listening, at least the big numbers like ‘Defying Gravity’ and ‘No Good Deed’, but I still didn’t leave the theatre humming. (Well, with my vocal abilities that’s probably a good thing.) The plot and characters still seemed to have as much depth as a piece of
tissue paper, and the second act was a bit dull. First time around I thought Lee brought a
rich voice and a thoughtful portrayal to a pretty trite character. But at the mock-up matinee he was phenomenal. From the moment he made his upside-down entrance, through his conversation with Elphaba (bedecked with a matching pink flower in his hair), to the finale, he was funny, engaging and note-perfect. The audience was loudly appreciative and for that performance at least, he seemed to have won over even the most ardent naysayers. He moves on to Legally Blonde next and it will be interesting to see what he makes of the part of Emmett.
One good thing about not being able to flit off to the West End every month is that I’ve been able to channel my theatre passion into my novel. A suspense thriller with a would-be actor at the centre, it now stands complete at 90,000 words. It took five revisions and 18 months hard work in the writing. Once it was done I felt bereft and not sure what to do with myself. Still, now I can turn my attention to the search for an agent / publisher…
Finishing a book is hard. Not the act of completion — though that’s no walk in the park — but the being done bit. After months of filling every moment with character development and plot points; waking up at 2am to write illegible notes on a pad already crammed with the illegible notes I’d written during moments stolen from work; living in a state of obsession for months on end; after all that, it’s hard to emerge back into the ‘Real’ world. What do you do? Well, I started work on another book. A non-fiction one this time devoted to musical theatre quizzes.
Anyone would think I was obsessed.