Forever In Your Debt: breaking through the pain barrier

08Mar10

The past week saw our merry band let loose in the fine towns of Coventry (famous for its “Lady Godiva, its Ring Road and its IKEA”) and Oxford (famous for its “Ashmolean, its Inspector Morse and its Park & Ride”). The former gig, at Warwick Arts Centre, meant an important return to the commissioning venue that had hosted our rehearsal process a month ago. Friendly faces (and their cackles) helped to ease a few niggling concerns, but eyes were fixed on wednesday’s Press Night as the crucial state of readiness for the show. Un-fortunately….it seems that no-one from the press actually turned up. Someone whispered something about 7 other theatres simultaneously staging press nights….mostly in London. So that was that.

Until of course the following night, when we descended upon the gorgeous, sun-kissed Cotswold-stone-faced terraces and courtyards of Oxford. This was my first visit to The Oxford Playhouse and for once we rolled up to the theatre a little later in the afternoon, relaxed. In this performer’s opinion the show went smoothly and for me the realisation that I’d graduated to that delightful stage of a tour in which the stress of merely remembering the technical gives way to a different kind of energy; no less disciplined, but which is liberating and fun because the performers’ greater facility of the material.

Within hours the online reviews from the Oxford gig start to appear, (not necessarily in the order published)

“Their singing was fantastic, with rich harmonies and real emotion in every number, really adding to the story and meaning behind each song…  An exceptionally clever, well written and presented production that managed to balance the serious and hard-hitting story with some much needed light-hearted and humorous moments. You’re guaranteed to leave the show with your mind reeling – really thinking about the consequences of debt.”

Daily Info – full review

“…most of the music was plodding and pedestrian, the singing at times painful and the lyrics twee…  Most of the oldies in the audience were probably lost from the garbled beginning, and those who weren’t, were disapprovingly shaking their bouffants shortly afterwards”

Oxford Theatre Review – full review

I hope I’ve learned my lesson from Red Shift’s exposure to the Edinburgh review-fest last summer. Online review sites present wonderful opportunities for commentary from all comers from all corners. They give license for individuals to ruminate, spout and froth about what really drives or infuriates them. They can be unsolicited, having no responsibility to any over-riding editorial agenda. But they can demonstrate no responsibility to an audience either. The above OTR review had me laughing: I can accept the author’s dry contempt for the level of Artistry, but what I can’t take is his contempt for fellow audience members. That’s patronising, self-centred and shameful.

Next stop is The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal. 9th March.

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One Response to “Forever In Your Debt: breaking through the pain barrier”

  1. What’s frustrating with some reviews is that they’re done in about 15 minutes with a thesaurus open at a random page. Unlike a piece of theatre – which isn’t created in 15 minutes it’s created in 15 months from conception to performance. It involves clever people, technical people, artistic people, sets, props, costumes, musicians, instruments, lights, sound desks, marketing, poster, programmes, scores, scripts, computers, tough decisions, easy decisions, cuts, edits, rehearsals, rehearsal, rehearsals, (rehearsal spaces) and of course ridiculously low budgets and profiles.

    To anyone who gets out there and creates new theatre: I salute you.

    To anyone who opens a thesaurus and spouts without being constructive: go get a proper job.


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