Posts Tagged ‘give this one a miss’

Review – Three Days of Rain – Apollo Theatre

February 10, 2009

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 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.)