Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Don't shoot the messenger

He's right. He's absolutely right. It's just not always right to say it.

Hugh Grant suggests that seeing a play is a hit and miss affair with the majority being, well a miss. Whilst it would be easy to carp and suggest he examines his own catalogue for the odd howler, it would miss the point. And the point is that he is correct.

There are three productions this year that spring to mind. Firstly, Three Days of Rain starring James McAvoy. After a perfectly decent first act, the whole plot quickly unravels once the rain starts and then only the most short-sighted person would miss each and every clue offered before the interval. Suddenly the play becomes a case of join the dots and the last 30 minutes are rendered meaningless because what looks like a taut script turns into plotting so obvious you've seen it in a dozen ITV sit-coms.

The second production is Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Whilst it would be churlish to knock anything with James Earl Jones in, he did star in both Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof suffers from being lionised. And yet this production made it seem like a Carry On film with enough innuendo to lubricate everyone's throat. Everything about it carried the weight of people trying too hard to be clever, all too aware of the play's reputation as a classic and trying to justify it.

And finally, the abject Footsbarn Christmas Cracker at the Globe. It's only been on two days and I haven't found a review online yet. There are a variety of reasons for this. Goodwill towards the Globe. The brevity of the performance. The time of the year. The production is so short that calling it limp would not adequately do it justice. It is a miserable trawl through, well what? It was hardly all things to all Shakespeare lovers. It was a confusing, short mess with random tightrope walking thrown in to cover for costume changes.

Three productions with an element of pre-existing kudos. Three major disappointments. Ah, the joys of the theatre. I really want to see Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art. I will need to build up some courage beforehand. I want it to be good but I'm worried that because it has the pre-existing kudos, people are being kinder about it than they would for other art forms. The theatre is weighed down by historical and cultural baggage. Not enough people are prepared to state quite clearly that:

It's not as clever as it thinks it is, as often as it thinks it is.

So bravo Mr Grant. You may be knocked for saying it, not because of what you're saying but because of who you are. And that's a shame. Because you're correct.