Saturday, September 18, 2004

MTC v Sweet FA

I went to an MTC play with my friend/fuckbuddy B on Thursday night. It was a production of Take me Out, a baseball drama about a professional player who comes out. B's boyf/husband is a set designer for MTC (sorry, i forget there are non-Melburnians reading: Melbourne Theatre Company) so B gets free tix for all their shows.

By the way, who says queer isn't the new black?

Now, i confess: I hate MTC productions. I always walk away from them disappointed, with a good idea of how I could fix up lighting, set design, performances, direction - mise en scene in general, i suppose. So, typically, B and I discussed faults with the production during the interval.

Watching the first act, I came up with a theory of breathing in drama. I think that any theatre production needs to occasionally give the audience a chance to digest what has happened in the previous scene(s) . I don't mean something like the interval - it's more in the pauses when set changes occur, when the stage is dark and uninhabited, when there is silence; then the audience can catch their breath.

The problem with this production, I argued, was that the set design was so tech-savvy (items came on stage via a pulley system of some sort) and fast-paced that the audience didn't get to breathe. B had seen this particular production a few weeks earlier, and pointed out that the very sort of breaks I had been talking about had happened were included in the earlier night, but the play was just as shit.

In the second half, it hit me: the performances were overdone, granted, but it was the pacing of the play that was fucked. B agreed. It ended up coming off as a piece still being workshopped, with no one quite sure how to bring it together.

After the show, I told B about my Monday night. My friend FA had brought together an ensemble of friends and fellow-performance-students at Bar Open in Fitzroy to create a symphony of vignette-y performance pieces. And it worked: he started off with this satirical spoken word performance of a diatribe against the metrosexual, had all sorts of different pieces then finished with a quasi-drag performance of Aretha Franklin's Dr Feelgood, which I'd never heard before. It was breathtaking.

Here was this ridiculously studenty production which actually worked: it flowed nicely (despite having one stupidly useless skit-ish performance in the middle) , (most of) the actors seemed to find the right style of performance for their respective moments, and the upstairs performance space of Bar Open seemed to be utilised well. Which goes to show even the very sweet FA is better than MTC.

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