Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Astonishment of ...

... Of watching a really bad play.
1/5 rating
The Valley of Astonishment | Young Vic

It's been long since I watched a play, so K and I went to watch one, off west end; for the real thing, you see.
The write up, reviews and the general idea of The Valley of Astonishment made it a very attractive play. It was in the Young Vic, and we didn't expect to be enthralled by the acting skills but we were expecting a good play, especially after guardian and independent giving some good reviews.
Having watched the play we were left with a strong feeling of being cheated by it. K lost his appetite. Of course, we can't blame anyone else for choosing which play to watch. We just made a bad choice.
The play had one normal linearly flowing story of a 44 year old woman, Sammy Costas who had an uncanny memory due to synaesthesia and becomes a phenomenon. And then there are smaller stories in between that are all unrelated but are about various degrees of synaesthesia. And then, there are some random sketches totally unrelated to anything but felt like they were there just to show that it's not a regular play but artsy and abstract. And then it all ends with one of the musicians playing the flute in the middle of the stage with all the others staring into space which was again an attempt to be artsy. It is possible of course, to use your imagination to make everything artsy. For example, as the musician played the flute each of the individuals was seeing, smelling and tasting, and even feeling different things giving them ecstatic pleasure for all senses, not just hearing. But that's in your imagination, not on the actors faces.
Before I go on talking of other negative things, let me take a moment to praise the musicians. About what was amazing. amazing. There were two of them and both were amazing. One Raphael Chambouvet with his piano and guitar and all things western played so beautifully. One Toshi Tsuchitori who played what I thought was a blend of a sitar and a violin which I'm sure has a name that I know not and a few other eastern instruments, who was so amazing. I think if the two of them just performed what we call a jugalbandi or a competitive duet, it would have been an amazing show.
What was not an amazing show was a little magic show with cards that one of the actors' one of characters does. Anyway, moving on.
I would have expected at least one of the propaganda messages to mention this dude, Solomon. There was not even a cursory mention of Solomon Shereshevsky who is the only recorded person to have all five senses respond simultaneously and whose story was lifted directly off of Wikipedia (or the original source) and used in about 75% of the play. I think if you read his wiki page you don't need to watch the play. Their webpage does say it's a collection of true incidents but nevertheless doesn't mention the one that was the most important, not even as an after thought. Now what was the definition of plagiarism again?
Never mind, I'm just angry that this play turned out to be so bad, that I felt cheated that the story was lifted, that it was then mixed with elements that can make it abstract theatre, that in spite of all that, they get good reviews and that probably if anyone comes across mine they will say I'm ignorant about theatre and art. I probably am, and I bear no ill will. So I shall not share links or pictures. If anyone wants to search, they may do so. The end.
One day the only theatre that would remain is the forlorn tragedy in incomprehensible English of Shakespeare (because obviously it's classic) and meaningless sketches pasted together by nothingness (because it's obviously abstract and artsy). And that day, talent (story, acting, sets, production) and theatre would be dead.

Update: I guess I did have to put in the links. Here is where I watched: http://www.youngvic.org/whats-on/the-valley-of-astonishment . Here are the links to the reviews as well and now that I have had a second look at them, Guardian and Telegraph seem to praise it only half-heartedly, trying to hide their disappointment. Independent seems more impressed.