Saturday, 22 September 2012

One Man, Two Guv'nors

Continuing the cultural theme I went to see One Man, Two Guv'nors at the Haymarket, a modern adaptation of an eighteenth-century play by Goldoni, Arlecchino servitore di due padroni. It was very funny in a silly way, with lots of falling over and misunderstandings. It was also quite interesting because I don't really know much about Commedia dell'Arte, and it wore its classical origins very lightly. It's set in 60s Brighton, and had good-humoured skiffle-style songs between the scenes.

But I do find faked audience interaction very annoying, and also when part of the play is to pretend that something has gone wrong with the play -- it's just too tiresomely meta. It also feels like a cheap trick to get audience sympathy -- the less suspicious, older people in the more expensive seats will clap twice as hard for what they think is an embarrassed audience member hauled on stage, and laugh twice as much at what they think is a clever improvised riposte by an actor under pressure. I think most of the audience spent the interval trying to entangle what if anything had been real and what staged. But I think most of them didn't really mind, and the people I was with weren't bothered, so it's probably just me. Judging from this FT review of the Broadway production, which says "the improv is inspired" but mentions something which also happened in the performance I was at, there's probably not really much improv as such.

But then I am not very sympathetic to theatre as an art form any more, and this was by far the least irritating and most enjoyable theatrical production I have been to in many years. I did laugh loads at the time, and my issues with it were mostly retrospective.

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