Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Festival And A Review

How good does this arts festival look? I had to read the profiles of four of the 100 artists involved to do a quick Q & A for them for a feature for the mag. They all get a week or so to work on their various performances/installations/ visual projects or whatever, and then there's a big day where you wander around soaking up all the works you've watched take shape through the week. Fun stuff. Had to do a group of musicians working with a film maker, a VJ, a trio of actors making short films and a collective who make site-specific sculptures.

Also, here, below, is a theatre review appearing in the current issue of Drum.

I'm still getting my head around the role of a reviewer but ultimately come down to this: I'm a punter telling other punters what my experience was like and whether I enjoyed a performance or not. If a performance irritates me so much that I am tempted to walk out because I have better things to do with my time, then I'm pretty well obligated to telling other punters that that's how I felt.

But I get this residual thing where I wonder if I've been too harsh. I think of what the performer will think when they read what this nobody reviewer thought of their creation. I hate that period between sending the review in and waiting for it to come out.

Then there's also the worry of what if I missed the point? What if I got it wrong?

I know - everyone says you just have to be honest and everything, there's no right or wrong really, just your opinion. But that's easy to say when you're not the one putting your name and credibility on the line. When you bag something that has had amazing press build up you will have doubts about whether you got it right.

But I wrote what I honestly felt and this was the result. At the end I'll link to another review of the same performance that came out in on the same day in a bigger paper. Pretty interesting.


It’s not a good sign when members of the audience are stifling laughter in the opening minutes. Not laughing because the performance is humorous; stifling laughter because they are watching pretentious wank that appears to be taking itself seriously - even if it does have a couple of pretty lame attempts at humour.

The theme is based on a Grimm Brothers story, The Wilful Child. God knows how or why this story has survived.

Credit where it’s due, Germay’s Antje Pfundtner is an amazing physical performer. I loved it when she danced. Her movements were absolutely captivating. She has obviously closely studied deformity and it’s quite amazing to watch her physical transformation from the graceful to the grotesque. She was pure spastic elegance. (That’s more a compliment than it sounds).

But when she wasn’t moving she was just plain annoying. Those stifled laughs from the shiny and quiffed audience members in the front row were the wrong kind of laughs, and they spread throughout the audience. And never more so than that excruciatingly long segment when she sat at a school desk and did nothing.

And nothing.

And nothing.

And nothing.

And still nothing.

Annoying, no?

Okay, so as an interpretation of the Grimm’s micro morality story it was more interesting than the story itself. But as an hour’s entertainment it was - like an indulgent child – pretty hard to take. And sure, that’s the whole point and it’s art so it’s meant to be challenging, but man you should have heard the politeness in the applause at the end of the show.

The Studio season over.

And here is the other review in the bigger paper.


Kathryn said...

Oy vey. That sounds really boring and not worth $20. You could watch that for free in the park.

Your review isn't too harsh. I liked the other review as well.

Quick said...

Thanks Kathryn.

I was collecting tickets from the box office for something else the other night. I said my last name and someone else came over and said, "Lee, is it?"

Oh dear. He introduced himself as the publicist I had contacted to ask to see Eigensinn and said, "Well you certainly enjoyed the show, didn't you?"

We actually had a really nice chat after that. Told him I was just being honest and he was cool.

He also said that that bit where she sits at the desk and does nothing? She does it until she thinks she's about to provoke a walk out, then she starts doing stuff. Apparently Sydney audiences were less tolerant than other cities. Apparently she has taken it to 20 minutes of doing nothing. Holy crap.

Interesting experiment, but not much fun.

Chris said...

Good call on Eigensinn, it were shite man!

I went to the second (or third?) performance at the Studio.

Being an experienced Theatre "Cricket" I guessed that the desk scene was open ended. A test. But the Prime Directive forbids me from interfering with an audience... I'm not allowed to heckle, throw things, yawn, walk out, boo or slow handclap. (Cos I haven't paid.)

I take your point, too, about hype. I heard really good things about this show -- from people I respect a great deal -- so I was baffled at how trivial it was.

It suffered, too, being in that shallow, wide, deadly space. In a 50-seater it might have been utterly captivating. (Or not!)

I would have been really pissed had I paid. That's what you need to remember. You're not writing for the performer, you're writing for punters wondering if a show is worth their "hard earneds".

Quick said...

Cheers Chris.

I think the desk scene summed up what was wrong with performance overall. Thinking about it afterwards I thought how lovely for her to conduct this experiment to see how far she could push the patience of audiences around the world, but what do the audiences get out of it? Challenge an audience by all means, but the audience should come away with something. It was a very self indulgent show.

And yeah, that's how I try to think of reviewing. I'm just a punter telling other punters what I thought/felt. There's no other reason for reviewers to exist, really, but to let other punters know what they're in for.