And, wow, kicking things off with a preview that just knocked me the fuck out. The greatest mystery about this show is why the hell the performer was so nervous — her performance was *solid*, crisp, controlled, and emotional without being manipulative — no mean trick to pull off.
The content is surely at least part of the selling point — she’s a Quaker who, yes, actually did witness a murder, an event which sent her spiralling into a compelling series of questions about God, life, and death. Part of the production, as I understand it, is a community of Quakers, silently holding her up in prayer, making it clear that she views this as both ministry and performance. As a critic, I can only speak to the latter — but the latter is compelling stuff, indeed.
She’s another spoken-word performer who talks about the use of a drum in the finished performance. I was impressed enough that I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt — but my immediate impulse is to cry no, no, it’s not necessary at all — her stage presence, and the content of her material, is interesting enough that I struggle to see what an instrument would add.
Mmmm. This one started off with a simple interactive theatre game with the audience — as an audience member, I generally prefer to be left alone, and they gave me that option, which I appreciate — proceeded to ask the audience for a few words regarding a topic (“How do you want children to be treated?” which was responded to with words like “respectfully,” “gently,” “fun-ly” — I’m amused to note that nobody thought that “strictly” or “firmly” were meritorious) — and then improvised a series of abstract movements to music, pausing intermittently to interject brief stories or recollections about childhood.
Now. I had my usual problem that I do with improvisation — which is that I found myself thinking, wow. This would be a brilliant way to develop a show. Watching people improvise generally isn’t that interesting to me — those moments of spontaneous invention are rewarding, but not nearly as much as the depth and nuance that can be achieved by structured, disciplined examination of a piece.
So an hour of this doesn’t seem terribly interesting to me. I hasten to emphasize that this isn’t because the company is bad at what they do — it’s because they’re performing in a style that I’ve simply never found all that engaging. Fans of improvised movement will find much to enjoy here.
These were two excerpts from a cabaret-style showcase of storytelling — which is pretty much always a winner for me. I love showcases, for much the same reason I love festivals — cramming together that many disparate elements, there’s sure to be at least something extraordinary.
These two pieces were no exception — one being a compelling story, although I wasn’t really able to engage with the performer telling it; and one being an incredibly warm, engaging storyteller, without much of a story to tell. This functioned largely as a mini-showcase within the larger preview, and was probably about as fair of a representation of a cabaret as could be achieved.
This wasn’t a preview, but at the end of the evening the playwright of this piece stood up and talked for a while about it.
Now, here’s a show that I had initially dismissed because of its title — which led me to believe that this would be some kind of sensational exploration of the lives of celebrities, which really couldn’t be less interesting to me. The playwright, however, talked intelligently, articulately, and enthusiastically about the subject matter, detailing what had originally drawn her to the story, some of the surprising discoveries she’d made along the way, and the inherent drama in the strange synchronicity that emerged between two seemingly disparate lives.
While I respectfully submit that I think that the title is a poor choice — the enthusiasm and careful thought of the playwright have now landed this play squarely on my radar. I’ll be keeping an eye on it.