Review – Three Days of Rain – Apollo Theatre

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Last night I went with the West End Whingers’ crewe to see Three Days of Rain at the Apollo Theatre. The show had an interesting premise – three kids trying to figure out the history of their (two) families, as LastMinute.com put it: “how the private worlds of one generation are reinterpreted by the next.” That was enough to interest me: God knows I’d never heard of any of the actors before (though I rarely do – it takes a lot to get me to pay attention and I’m completely immune to the cult of celebrity).

The evening started out nicely enough at the White Horse, just behind the theater, a charming little warren of rooms complete with live fireplace that I’ll be sure to visit again soon. The theater itself is gorgeous – just the sort of place to see a show in London, but completely the wrong place to see a play about modern architecture! (The National would probably have been a better choice.)

When the show started, we were greeted by a deafening wall of noise that had me sticking my fingers in my ears. This is probably where they should have stayed, as at about the second sentence, when the character Walker (James McAvoy) says he’s “soaking up the Stravinsky of it,” I suddently had a Fram-ish vision of doom: I had just paid very good money to see a play that was completely up its ass. It isn’t about relationships, or understanding your family, and doesn’t feature interesting characters or good writing; it is the sort of sad show in which an author feels like name-dropping references to good artists (and art, and philosophers) will somehow add to the quality of his own work. Nietzche, Hegel – for God’s sake, most of the times the references were completely irrelevant! (The mention of Oedipus and quote from Hamlet are excepted as actually feeding into the plot, but saying “I feel like Hedda Gabler!” while burning a book made no sense to any of us.)

To top it off, the characters themselves weren’t actually doing anything. James McAvoy was utterly unconvincing as a slightly mad twenty-something, but he suffered from a script that also turned his character’s sister, Nan (Lyndsey Marshal) into a bit of a flat little robot with nothing interesting at all about her. And what were they talking about? Not their relationship, and not really their relationship with their parents; they were talking about … architecture … but not very much. They didn’t spend more than about two sentences explaining why buildings are interesting or inspiring … they just kind of asked each other questions about the past and what they didn’t understand about their parents and, er, what was going on with their dad’s will. Basically, they were doing nothing but setting us up for the second act (in which all action occurs), only, unlike a movie trailer, this took a good hour to accomplish.

It was all just so boring. I was losing my will to live. As they continued to speak and move around on stage, I vividly pictured the image I had seen on my computer just before I left work, of a Rem Koolhaas building burning in Beijing. It seemed to capture what was going on stage so well – the wanton destruction of two hours of my life for no good reason at all, and without even glorifying the art form it claimed to celebrate.

Which made me wonder (and I had plenty of time to wonder as my mind left the building to walk the streets of London), what is it that gets people so excited about architecture? It’s just not an art that transfers well to other mediums. A stage show about people trying to put on a musical, or write a good play? A book about a writer? These things seem to work, but plays and movies about brave heroic architects just don’t really cut the mustard. And to end a play with a man masculinely drawing a straight line across a piece of paper with a T-square … I just wanted to put a bullet through the production, and the script, for all time. What in the hell were they thinking? What was Richard Greenberg thinking when he wrote this turkey? Had he been collaborating with David Bowie or something? The character of Pip (Nigel Harman), the shallow TV actor (with a messed up accent – where did they cook THAT up?), provided desperately needed comic relief, but still didn’t succeed in really moving the story forward. How did they manage to entirely blow an act without a damned thing happening? GAH.

Anyway, I contemplated leaving during the intermission pretty seriously, but was told that the second act was a LOT better. And, well, the second act actually featured people interacting and doing things with each other that involved PLOT and transformation, and it was much better indeed, though to be honest to some extent I felt this was because the bar had been set so low in the first act. Overall, though, the play suffered from the same mistakes as Gesthemane – an excess of focus on ideas at the expense of creating an interesting show, in which characters create dramatic tension through their interactions with and relationships with each other. I couldn’t entirely buy Harman’s (as Theo) bullying of his stuttering friend Ned (McAvoy, much improved in act 2) … it didn’t have a naturalness to it. The development of the relationship between Ned and Lina was the only real drama of the whole evening … but it wasn’t enough and the ending just made the whole thing fall down limp for me.

In short: don’t bother. It’s not the worst thing out there, but it’s not worth spending money or time on. Instead, run out to go see Zorro, which I’ve just discovered is closing March 14, 2009. Now THAT’S a tragedy for you.

(This review is for a preview performance on February 9, 2009. Three Days of Rain runs until May 2nd, 2009. For another view on the show, please see the West End Whingers site or John Morrison’s blog.)

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7 Responses to “Review – Three Days of Rain – Apollo Theatre”

  1. Exit, pursued by a bear Says:

    As the Whingers have very recently acquired a smart-arse proofreader for their site, I would like to volunteer my services for WCG before said smart-arse gets here before me.

    Fireplaces are not “live”, they are “real” or “working”. (sheesh, you Colonials!)

    The plural of “medium” (as in a means of expression or communication ) is “media”, unless one is reviewing Blithe Spirit, when the plural is “mediums”.

    James McAvoy played Mr. Tumnus in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, made by Disney. I thought it was part of the Constitution that all our Colonial Cousins had, by law, to see every Disney film ever produced as part of “The Cult of Uncle Walt” (not realising, of course, that dear old Uncle Walt was a drunk, a wifebeater, an anti-unionist, a mysogynist and a rampant McCarthyist, amongst other nasty things cf: “Hollywood’s Dark Prince”

    Before you all set your taser guns to “barbecue” and point them in my direction, can I just point out that I am using the celebrated English irony extensively throughout this post. Although its true about Mr. Disney. Oh yes it is.

    • webcowgirl Says:

      These are stylistic choices which I stand by – I only use “media” when referring to “the media” and calling a fireplace live would be Ye Olde Sense Of Humour Innit. And I did actually see Narnia but I just can’t remember movie actors’ names – there are too many of them.

  2. shadowdaddy Says:

    @Russell:

    a) it’s a real live fire, though…awkward sentence construction, perhaps, but incorrect? More a grammatical issue, methinks.

    b) agree on media, but perhaps better said that it “doesn’t translate into another medium,” maintaining the singular throughout. Again with the grammar.*

    c) oh dear, you had to point that out, didn’t you? She may not hold to the cult of celebrity, but I remember her reaction to dear Mister Tumnus, and now I fear she’ll be out back of the Apollo vying for a smile as well.
    c1) let’s also not forget “with a cryogenically frozen head.”
    c2) spell checkers should always close parentheticals properly

    d) “Barbecue” is a far too formal spelling for us ‘murricans. “BBQ.”

    e) I celebrate the English irony, as well as the “taking of the piss.” =)

    *an aside: webcowgirl’s grammar was a right nice woman.

  3. Review - Three Days of Rain Apollo Theatre « West End Whingers Says:

    […] on Review – Woman in Mind, Vaudev…SuzieBee on Review – Woman in Mind, Vaudev…Review – Three Days … on Review – Three Days of Rain Ap…Andrew (a west end w… on Review – Three Days of […]

  4. Exit, pursued by a bear Says:

    hey, people, it was a JOKE!

  5. Exit, pursued by a bear Says:

    Unless Im mistaken, a fireplace isn’t sentient, and therefore cannot be construed as “live”. It can be “real” – i.e actually exist or “working” in the sense of it actually being operational, but not “live”.

    Like, whatever.

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