Being a theatre nerd I'm all too aware that you need to see a decent mix of the good and the bad (and sometimes the downright f'ugly) in order to know what is a good idea... and what is a really very bad idea.
I've been spectator to a handful of performances this week, the best of which was an Edinburgh Preview of a Uni comedy troupe revival in the shape of 'Bristol Revunions'. My expectations going in to see them were really low, thanks to my friend Tom who warned me that he'd heard them rehearsing and thought they sounded like a bunch of 'am dram drama school types'.
But one choral rendition of 'I wanna fuck you' by Akon later and I was putty in their hands.
Other highlights in the hour included a priest who can't stop saying jinx mid service, Nicholas Cage's biggest fans assuring him that despite 'Knowing' they'll stick with him, and Princess Peach and Luigi staging an intervention to get Mario off the mushrooms.
My favourite sketch was a reoccurring one about a morbidly unhappily married couple playing party games on their own on Christmas Day. Among connect four and pass the parcel, they played charades.
Husband does the action for film.
Husband does the action for book.
Wife: Book and film.
Husband holds up his index finger.
Wife: One word.
He points to his wedding band.
Husband shakes his head.
Wife: The Ring. The Ring 2. Ringu, the japanese original.
Husband: It's one word.
Husband points to himself, and then to his wife.
Wife: You and me... You, Me and Dupre!
Husband: It... *sigh* It's one word...
Hasband points to his wedding band again.
Wife: Marriage! Wedding, The Wedding Crashers! Four Weddings and a Funeral!
The bad theatre came in the form of 'Anomie', a piece of physical theatre by a Bristol-based company called Precarious.
There's a lot of great physical theatre about: DV8, NoFitState, heck, I even managed to bash out some decent stuff when I was studying Bausch.
With physical theatre, or my understanding of it anyway, you take a theme, be that broad or very specific, and explore that theme through dance, motif, comedy, imagery, dialogue, music, mime and any other manner of performance techniques to take the audience through a number of emotions.
Unfortunately what I saw last night had the audience operating at two speeds; bored and needing a wee.
The theme from what I could determine seemed to be how lonely life can be in a big city, or maybe it was voyuerism... I'm not sure.
It started promisingly enough with the six characters performing some interesting movement pieces, each with their own mattress, cumbersome props that were used throughout, but only once to good effect. There was a sequence where a man and woman had a mattress stood up between them and in the mattress at shoulder level was a hole that they used to find each other and flirt and annoy and explore each other.
But that was the only part to make me smile.
The rest of the time I found myself getting annoyed at the poor sound quality and lack of variation in the music. I mean, I like drum and bass as much as the next person, but not for an hour. Plus, if you're trying to convey sadness one minute and happiness the next, try to get some of the other elements at your disposal to enhance that. Maybe it does work in other cases to keep the music consistent throughout but here it really didn't.
The technical aspects did bother me. As I said before, the sound was poor, and for some reason they'd decided to use six huge flat screen televisions to do some interesting live theatre/prerecorded dvd trickery. Thing is, the actors were constantly out of time with the screens, which was just really distracting.
If you're going to use technology it's GOT to be shit hot and it's GOT to have a purpose. This just felt like the company had a budget and wanted to use it.
All I could think all the way through was, "What's the point? What question are you asking? What's the story here?" With a theme too broad and too difficult to pin down the whole production needed something solid to anchor it all. Or hell, just some extraordinary physical skill to distract and wow people with.
At some point a long hour was over and I was banging my hands together in a somewhat hostile fashion while the cast were cajoling an equally hostile stage crew on to accept some applause.
So, something that far exceeded my expectations, and something that barely met them.
Hopefully the next weekend at The Big Chill will provide something completely different.