Sunday, August 08, 2010

"We had the greatest expectations"

Expectation is a tricky thing. I think every theatre obsessive has a secret (or not so secret) list of certain people and companies from whom brilliance, or at least an above averagely good night is demanded of. The top part of my list would include (in no particular order):

Katie Mitchell
Tom Stoppard
National Theatre of Scotland
Anything at the National Theatre
Anything by the RSC
Simon Stephens
Out of Joint

[Note: I have a sublist of expectations for people or companies for whom I accept that brilliance might not always happen (or be fleeting) but who will challenge or surprise me, with these moments being the ones that I take in the trade off. ]

Expectations though are difficult. On one hand I go in with the state of mind that I am going to love what I am to see. That it will speak to me, or change what I think, or simply be superb. On the other if it doesn't meet these expectations then well, I'm unlikely to think, oh so-and-so was having an off day. I'm going to be all WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? Complete with tearful recriminations and slamming of doors.

Yesterday wasn't quite that bad - unless I was going to use the door of an expensive nightclub there wasn't much available for slamming - but I was only over egging the pudding slightly when I told Breakfast Club Boy subsequently that I was "bereft".

There were lots of little things that contributed to such central Edinburgh melodrama. I'd had five hours sleep. I'd spent the day watching low tech but resolutely charming plays. The previous Edinburgh Fringe I had fallen a little in love with Ella Hickson's Precious Little Talent. Her new play, Hot Mess, not only billed itself as being exactly the kind of play I adore, the Press Release announced that it was a "site specific" piece created especially for the Edinburgh nightclub I was going to watch it in. When I arrived at the club it was beautiful. And then, as we were taken underground to the room where the play was to be performed for no clear reason we were each given a wet pebble. Before I'd even taken my seat I'd decided yes, thank you very much, I was going to love this.

I lasted about 15 minutes in this frame of mind before I realised that whilst I still loved Hickson's voice - oh, she can write a beautiful line - I wasn't particularly engaged with what was happening. And - here’s the big one - I couldn’t work out how exactly Hot Mess was site specific. As of yet none of the play had been set IN A NIGHTCLUB. I may be taking a leap here but site specific requires the play to be specific to the site, in that (without radical changes) there is no where else this play could be performed. Thus far not only was it site generic the fact that the site was problematic for sightlines and the seating was bloody uncomfortable meant that I might well have been enjoying this play more if they’d put it in a more traditional theatre space.

There were some lovely moments, don’t get me wrong, and, even at the end, I still loved Hickson’s voice but I was - disappointed.

Plus, it was never explained why we were given the pebble. And that hurt me most of all.

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