Review: A Life in the Theatre
Before scrolling down, as you inevitably will, to look at the stars – stop. I have a few things to say first. This production should have been a three star […]
Before scrolling down, as you inevitably will, to look at the stars – stop. I have a few things to say first. This production should have been a three star production, perhaps even more. However, there were two things which prevented it from being as good as it could have been. The first involves you.
This was a play about theatre, an in-depth study of a friendship between actors and the self-conscious, superstitious and frustrated moments they share with one another. It’s by David Mamet and is acted confidently and competently by Cole Matson and Andrew Illsley, Matson taking on the role of the older, more debonair actor, and Illsley that of his protégée. Both handled Mamet’s difficult dialogue skilfully and although they could have hammed up more comedically the scenes in which their characters were actually acting, it was very professional indeed. And I know there are more thespians and Mamet fans in this town than the number who showed up last night. So: where were you? There were only about 8 of us in the audience. Half of whom were reviewing.
Although this did not affect my ‘star judgement’ of the show, as it were, it did detract from some very funny scenes including, for instance, one where Illsley’s character misses his cue and the two frantically debate whether he should check the script or just march onto stage regardless. That Matson and Illsley managed to extract laughter at all from such a tiny audience is impressive. However, a greater audience was needed for for more plentiful communal laughter.
The second, main thing that hindered this show’s success is something which would have been spotted by a third-party director, if the duo had had one. There have been many complaints made about scene changes recently, but this was dire. It felt like there were thirty very short scenes with whole minute intervals, and that there was more scene change than scene. The show requires extravagant costume changes, which, although impressive, did not justify the time taken to get in and out of them.
Dominic Kimberlin was cast as the stagehand, who was supposed to come on and change the set and amuse us with physical comedy while doing so. And Kimberlin was amusing initially, but there are only so many times one can be amused by a humming stagehand, and either Kimberlin needed more to do, or the changes had to be sharpened or cut.
Having spoken to the actors after the show however, I feel confident in saying that this is being dealt with and that tonight’s show will be far better because of it. So, thespians, I would recommend going tonight not just because seeing theatre here is important, but because the humour, the discussion of theatre, the professionalism of the acting, and the fact that America’s most prominent playwright wrote it make this show worth seeing.