|The Concord Journal|
|Opinion: Letters to the editor|
|Review missed the boat|
In the '60s and '70s I often wrote music reviews for The Concord Journeal (and the other Concord paper) and most of the time received much praise for the articles, but also received, both publicly and privately, scathing letters denouncing me as a traitor to local music organizations. In other words, I was not really to find fault with the performances because the job of the local reviewer was to make the public want to support these organizations, not to find fault with them.
This letter is not a critizue of the Concord Players, but rather an attempt to make some sense out of Jacob Armitage's recent review of them (Concord Nov. 23.) Obviously, the "Christmas" in the headline was not his fault, but that of the editor. But wasn't it silly to waste four inches comparing the characters to Thanksgiving food? As I watched the play last Friday, I felt it was an odd play that left a lot to be pondered over, and that it was probably not being directed well. When I came home and reread the review more carefully, I was startled by this sentence: "The audience may be forgiven if it fails to draw a parallel between the bland non-hero of Ayckbourn's play and Macbeth." Wow! Is "Macbeth" another typo or ignorance on the part of the reviewer? The players in the play are rehearsing "The Beggar's Opera" and the hero or anti-hero of the later, depending on your point of view, is Macheath, which may or may not be John Gay's attempt to find a parallel with Macbeth. I've never heard that before. doesn't handle either
.But if "The audience may be forgiven," it is because either the play or the direction is not clear, and the reviewer doesn't handle either of those two important points. I struggled for a long time to figure out what was the relationship between the play, and the play within the play. (Was there yet again another play within that?) Because I am not a theatre critic, it took me until almost the end to see the moral dilemma. What I saw was that the central character (who incidentally is not the director of the opera, Dafydd, played birlliantly by Jim O'Brien, but rather, the new actor to the small troupe, Guy, played almost too innocently by Jonathan Ashford) presents an enigma. The puzzle, like that of Macheath himself is: Is he a complete innocent, amoral or not, or is he a conniving manipulator, who deserves all the vitriol heaped upon him at the end? He has, after all, succeeded in ruining almost everyone's life, at least temporarily. Such people do exist - I've known them - we all probably have. And I wonder if Ayckbourn hasn't devised this very elaborate plot to point this out to us.
For Mr. Armitage to mention "veal" in the review without explaining it to all leaves all the non-theatre-goers dangling. And it really doesn't matter how the pianist was sitting - she directed the music with her introductions, and didn't need to be seen by us or the singers. I think we have to think of these musical interpolations not just as a way of showing how badly the rehearsals are going, but also as a mean of showing the parallels between the play being rehearsed and the play being presented to us. What is real, and what is not?
The use of the entire stage, small though it is, is certainly not distracting - backstage has a life of its own and contrasts very will with the crowded playing areas left for the real-life scenes, usually interior, (interesting point there to be discussed sometime as well.) I cannot fully explain what the author was after, but I know it was more complex and on more levels than the Journal reviewer suggested. It was a production one could have missed without feeling sorry, but one which could have been seen without feeling sorry for having gone.