Sunday 30 June 2013

Generation Game: week 9/10 – The Yard

Alexandria – Peter Cant & Krzysztof Honowski

On the Benefits of Being A Troll – TheatreState

Annoyingly, the only comment I can make about Peter Cant and Krzysztof Honowski’s 7.30pm show Alexandria is that Hackney Wick is a long way from Hammersmith and I’m very sorry I didn’t make it in time.

This did, however, mean I had time to sample some of the Yard’s current menu (Jerk Chicken, rice and “devilled halloumi”, which, at £8, is slightly more expensive than a Byron Burger – so that probably wants a bit of looking at).

TheatreState’s On the Benefits of Being a Troll is that increasingly rare thing – a “devised piece”. I’m not sure where all the “devised pieces” have gone. Perhaps they haven’t gone anywhere and I’ve just stopped looking for them, or grown so far out of the age-group at which they’re marketed that they have become invisible to me in the same way that the music of Justin Bieber is.

I suppose I haven’t been to the BAC in a while (I should), but at the same time, I think the language has also shifted. I think “devised piece” has acquired too much baggage and now no one will admit to making one, even if “a devised piece” is exactly what they’ve made. So maybe it’s a bit unfair to call On the Benefits... of being one. Even though it clearly is.

What happens is that our two compères for the evening, __ and __ (sorry, left programme in flat, will amend) address us in deadpan, ironic voices and talk about not being big joiners. And how that was tough when growing up, thanks to the craze for line-dancing exemplified by RedNex’s Cotton Eyed Joe. It all goes on. There’s some low level interactivity. Then some more involved interactivity. Then we notice that some of the people they’re pulling out of the audience are clearly plants.

Eventually we’re all drawn onto the stage to take part in a bad tempered re-enactment of a comment thread about Arts Funding – probably from the Daily Mail (but it could equally be the Guardian) – during which we all read a bunch of silly comments into a microphone.

Eventually, all the cast and plants have left the stage, and we’re all left standing in this proxy internet lit by disco lights and wondering if the show has finished and feeling sheepish.

Oddly, perhaps the best bit of this show was the five or so minutes after it ended where members of the audience debated among themselves whether to leave or to keep sitting and see what would happen. I think it only eventually ended because everyone felt bad for the theatre staff who still had to clear the stage.

Plays about the internet are clearly going to be a growth market as we spend increasing amounts of time conducting our social lives online, and indeed reading wonderful, penetrating criticism t/here. At the moment it still feels like the best formal representation of this phenomena is yet to come. And theatre’s biggest difficulty is how to represent a medium which is in more or less every way antithetical to itself – i.e. exchanging screen burnt eyes and total anonymity for warm humanity huddled in the same dark rooms.

On the Benefits... isn’t perhaps the best show I’ve ever seen, but nor was it painfully embarrassing, stupid or offensive. And it had some really ragged live music and sarcasm, which I quite liked.

TheatreState are doing an adaptation of Fanny Hill in Edinburgh this year, which might be fun.


Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised by this review as I saw the show on Saturday and thought it was one of the most refreshing & funny pieces I've seen in a while.. I found it tackled some serious/thought provoking issues about how we interact with others but it a lighthearted, non lecture way (some other things I've seen felt like being at school) and I came away really thinking about my own online persona. As a reviewer I think its really bad you can't remember their names.. and also, do you not think the ending was intended to be like that? I was terrified of getting up at the beginning but really enjoyed it and i think the ending summed up their entire point. I think it's a shame you didn't come away feeling the way I did

Andrew Haydon said...

"do you not think the ending was intended to be like that?"

Yes. I thought I made it reasonably clear that I thought it was quite a good ending (if not an entirely original one).

I suppose my otherwise slight indifference to the piece is probably more a result of having seen quite a lot of this sort of show before, and this one maybe not being the absolute best example of the species, but I thought it was perfectly nice.

It might also be that I've thought a fair bit about online personas already, and maybe to me it didn't feel like ...Troll brought anything radically new to the table.

Or maybe I'm periodically just a bit old and jaded.