So, how did the performance go?

Well, I've said it before, that it's often those who lead a project to success are those who later kill it. The kind of person with the determination and courage to create, often also has the ego and arrogance that makes it all go sour - the determination and the ego are two sides of the same coin.

In this case it's Herr Direktor who made it happen, and almost made sure it didn't happen.

Although there was a paying audiance (65 people paid UKP5 each) who presumably expected to see a cast who had memorised their lines, none of us had had time to do so. We all read from scripts, which limited our physical acting.

The four drama students did an absolutely sterling job, despite being 20 years too young for their roles. Duncan T clearly relished his part as mass murdering camp guard, playing it as a slimy moustache twirling villain - camp in the other sense.

Christine R has minimal acting experience, but has buckets of instinct for it - her softly spoken survivor confronting her former torturers across a courtroom was actually moving. Our one professional actor, a man called Stuart, manages the dignified description of horrors personally seen very effectively.

I was apparantly quite good, playing the Defence Counsel as a beaurocratic pedant, trying to trip up the witnesses with sneaky questions.

Three days before the performance, Max introduced a new actor to play a major role. Her name is Berit - she's German, with a good but imperfect grasp of English, she's a midget with no acting experience at all, and very nervous about public speaking.

And she has the longest speech in the play, a ringing declaration about how perpetrators and victims of genocide are chosen not by fate, class or past but by random and absurd chance. There's no way to tell in advance who will be on which side of the gas chamber door.

Max was making cuts, reinstatements, recuts, movements and changes to the script until the night before the performance. Sometimes forgetting to tell the relavent actors that he had done so.

I found two instances of lines from cut exchanges that had somehow got left in, and were therefore meaningless. I told the actors and we patched it up, and I'm sure there were others doing the same.

Then, an hour before we were due to go on, he decided some more changes were absolutely vital. He went through the modifications with each actor alone, ensuring that we were all reading from somewhat different scripts.

Sometimes passages the rest of us thought had been cut were unexpectedly performed. And sometimes there was frantic rustling of notes as entire pages were omitted with no notice.

Oh, and I think Max, playing the Judge, decided to make a few ad hoc cuts during the performance itself, expecting the rest of us to compensate on the fly. It's amazing there were only about a dozen missed cues.

All this, given okay or good performaces (and a few very good ones), plus a tolerant audiance who were politically on our side, failed to derail the play.

Then right at the end, after the 'curtain' point, the director got off his judges podium and spoke to the audiance directly. One of his long, slow speeches, full of pregnant pauses and extravagent care taken in word choice.

I confess I was not the only cast member to sneak away backstage in the dark as he began. We knew he'd finished when we heard him bellow something about living together in peace - "PEACE! PEEEEAACE!!!". Perhaps he thought the play couldn't speak for itself.

Afterwards, some us went for a celebratory meal in a chinese resteraunt, and talked about putting the play on in one of Portsmouth's two larger theatres, or even one of the small theatres in London that cater to amateur groups. In my opinion, this is pure fantasy.

If we put the play on again, it has to be done properly, which means adaquate rehearsal, a fixed script, and in general a lot of professionalism. We're not going to get that from the current director, so if we want to take this further, either his role will have to be downsized - which his ego will never permit - or we ditch him, which is probably not possible.

So, as far as I'm concerned, this project is over and done with. It was enjoyable, if frustrating, the message of the play got through and I cirtainly don't regret getting involved.

No comments:

Post a Comment