Jun. 30th, 2012

bliumchik: (quantum)
I found it odd initially that the UTS theatre society, Backstage, wanted to do a double bill of The Real Inspector Hound and Mother Courage & Her Children, but I must admit it's worked out pretty well. You come away from the night with a real sense of the general theme being Plays That We All Studied In High School er Won't Let You Forget You're Watching A Play. Fourth wall? Hound's got five. Suspension of disbelief? Bertholt Brecht spits upon suspension of disbelief. And yet, it goes without saying, the skill of the respective playwrights means you can actually make a pretty entertaining evening out of it, and this the actors did with aplomb.

We open with Tom Stoppard's absurdist classic The Real Inspector Hound, and let me reassure you I am fully aware of the irony of making any sort of critical review of The Real Inspector Hound, and promise not to use the word "elan" at any point other than that one. To say this production was on a budget is to make university students the world over laugh uproariously and insist that it is your round, so rather than engaging in funny business with mirrors, the traditional Messrs Moon And Birdboot Are In The Audience game was played by means of several chairs extending the audience seating onto the stage (floor) in a curve with Reserved signs on two of them, not that this was necessary because the audience knows what's what and nobody wants to sit in the weird seats where the lighting kids can stare at the back of your neck. I hadn't brought a companion, so I ended up sitting in the middle of the second row next to pair of men with accents so incredibly German they could not possibly be actual Germans from Germany.

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What can I say about Mother Courage? Many things, but a lot of them involve trying to pronounce Verfremdungseffekt. It seems like each new production uses different theatrical devices to shoot for Brecht's ideal of estrangement, and each one manages to shoot itself in the foot by casting likeable, empathic actors. This was basically the case here. It is of course possible that the artist's goal of undermining audience immersion in the story to breaking point in order to make them think about the issues presented is truly impossible to achieve, and it is also highly probable that anyone who's going to think about it at all is capable of doing so while totally engrossed in the story, but it is more to the point to note that the spread of postmodernism and the vagaries of student theatre mean we are entirely accustomed to a fourth wall that's more of a colander, to highly non-naturalistic scenery and to metanarrative commentary. The only things that remain unique to Brecht and therefore remotely jarring are the thing where you announce what's going to happen in the following scene and the thing with the awful music. All of the above were used quite well in this production.

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