September 5, 2007

Stoppard dated? More likely our ears… [The Real Thing]

Oedipa Maas      posted 4 Sep 2007, 11:53 PM / edited 5 Sep 2007, 12:13 AM


As an audience member who has seen almost all Stoppard to be performed in the greater Auckland region in the past long-while-and-a-bit, it saddens me to read the reviews of Silo Theatre’s recent production of his ‘The Real Thing’ both in the Herald and on this website.

Both reviews seem to latently bemoan a certain verbosity in the play, claiming it alienates identification and obscures the ‘showing’ (not ‘telling’) of that ever elusive beast, love – a.k.a; ‘The Real Thing’.

It is precisely this verbosity in our central characters which ‘unfolds, disarms and undoes’ the human condition.

To approach this play as merely (although masterful) farcical banter is not only a dis-service to the text, but a telling exposure of the ease in which our modern ears give up when approached with something difficult or unsettling. One does not need to view the play multiple times, nor do they need to have a degree in English Literature to be confronted with Stoppard’s multi-level attack on the fight between legitimacy (‘the real thing’ perhaps?) and illegitimacy – fought on stage by high-brow and low-brow literature, classical and pop music, lofty love and its lesser cousin lust. A multifaceted, metatheatrical battle beautifully staged by Bosher and his ensemble.

It seems Ms Huse’s review almost implied that the integral soundscape of the play (painstakingly compiled pop songs, listed in the text) was merely a clever add-on, by the (still truly wonderful) sound engineer Jonathan Cross. As an experienced critic for our nation’s largest newspaper, can it be true that even Ms Huse’s ears really have switched off to the degree where she missed the absolute precision of their pre-existing choice? And completely failed to mention their cunning parallel to the already multi-faceted storyline? …And instead chose to pick apart the fantastic Victoria Ingram’s costume choices for being ‘unflattering’? Wandering attentions, indeed.

As a theatre-goer who enjoys being confronted by stagecraft, and finds her “light laughs” elsewhere, I find it almost insulting that this play was recommended as an “antidote” to the “potent, enduring and powerful black comedy, The Pillowman.”

Yes, Simon Prast’s ‘Pillowman’ is brilliant, dark, engaging, powerful and a whole host of other adjectives – I was deeply moved by both the text and its delivery. JUST as I was deeply and utterly moved by ‘The Real Thing'”s potency, its parable on the dual impotence and power of both love and language. By its commentary on the futility AND necessity of these tools humans continue to wield and buckle underneath.

Also, apart from fleeting references to Stephen Lovatt’s protagonist as a surrogate Stoppard, both pieces failed to remark on the text’s cutting commentary on the role of the author. Now THERE’S a proper reason to bring up comparison to McDonagh’s ‘The Pillowman’.

Ladies. Open your ears. …You’re missing out.

Dr. Hilarius          posted 5 Sep 2007, 09:09 AM

What a kick-ass pseudonym.

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