Posts Tagged ‘Pierrot Lunaire’

How I rate shows

May 5, 2012

You may notice if you read this blog much that I don’t assign star ratings to shows. I was required to for a while when transferring my reviews to Up The West End, a side project of one of the West End Whingers. Mostly, I don’t like to use stars, because for me so much of a show’s “rating” depends on how much I paid for it. Did my seats cost £75, like they did for Mary Poppins and the Bolshoi’s Giselle? Then I am expecting something pretty damned amazing right from the start. But mostly I try to stick to shows where I pay around £15-£20 for my ticket – a requirement when you’re going to see shows four nights a week.

With that cost scale, here’s what my star rating would look like:

5 stars: changes how I feel about theater. I will talk about it for years to come. I might have cried. If it’s sold out, I’d recommend standing outside in the rain for tickets. (Cock, Giselle, Collaborators, Propellor’s Richard II.) This doesn’t happen much.

4 stars: an extremely enjoyable night out, worth more than what I paid for the tickets. I left elated. I would probably go again. (Crazy for You, Jumpy.)

3 stars: fairly standard yet enjoyable fare, done at a high level of professionalism with a good script. I was engaged. (The King’s Speech, Betty Blue Eyes.)

2 stars: if you don’t really have anything better to do, this is probably not a bad choice, but a night at home watching TV might not be too bad as an alternate. Actually, you can probably skip this play, unless you have a compelling reason to go (collecting all plays by this writer, topic you’re interested in, bored and it’s cheap). (Hay Fever, Much Ado About Nothing at the National, Singing in the Rain.)

1 star: I made a mistake buying this ticket. No matter what I paid for it, I thought it might be better to leave during the interval, unless I really had high hopes that something tremendous and unexpected was going to happen in the second (or third) act. I am resentful about staying to see this show. (Woman Killed with Kindness and pretty much anything Katie Mitchell does, Floyd Collins)

0 stars: Suddenly I realized that I have a limited time on this planet and urgently needed to be making the most of the pitiful hours left to me. In some cases, this may mean I have to leap over other people in order to escape the room. Chances of being scarred are high. (Fram, Pierrot Lunaire, 4:48 Psychosis as done by Fourth Monkey.)

I don’t give numbers in my reviews on this blog because it’s all a bit of a finger in the air thing due to the impact on ticket cost on the “value” of a production (as well as the whole question of how long it is). I think, though, it’s obvious from what I write if the show in question is worth seeing or not, or if it’s just forgettable entertainment, or if it’s actually actively vile.

Do you disagree with this approach? To be honest, I do like the West End Whingers’ use of ratings as it makes it easy for me to preserve the surprise for shows I haven’t seen yet by just scrolling down to the number of wine glasses and then buying tickets for it if it’s a 5 glass show and reading the review later (after I’ve written mine). But then, I think they’re too soft and award 3/5 to shows I consider not worth making an effort for. What do you think?

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Review – Michael Clark Stravinsky Project – Barbican Theatre

November 8, 2007

The Michael Clark Stravinsky Project is really worth writing about, and not just because the foolish 7:45 start time contributed painfully to my midnight end time and braindeadness today. I was pretty excited about seeing a show that had three Stravinsky pieces in it (despite being so far up in the theater I expected to see a colony of bats lodged above us), since he’s one of my favorite composers. The chosen pieces were “Apollo” (not very exciting musically in my book), “Rite of Spring” (need I say more), and “Les Noces,” which as it turns out is pretty good even though it started out reminding me of the stimmtspiele stuff we saw with Pierrot Lunaire that about turned me off having singing at a dance performance ever again. And hey, the program “warned” that the evening contained nudity, which in my mind is always a positive thing in an arts performance, especially if we’re talking dance.

This promise was not entirely carried out, though the costuming was actually quite interesting. Dancers in rubber skirts? Dancers in body stockings with shiny bits wrapped around their bodies in interesting patterns? I liked this part. However, I was quite taken aback by the dancers wearing toliet seats on their shoulder with their heads protruding from the center. What really was this about? Was the “Rite of Spring” (called “Mmmmm” as a dance performance) really all about people who really needed to go to the bathroom? Is that why they were grabbing their crotches? Or was it all just some “I’m a wacky modern choreographer” silliness? I couldn’t really tell, and the ending, with either a Hitler or a Charlie Chaplin character dancing a long solo, left me mystified, or, rather, eager for some interval ice cream.

Anyway, the movement (isn’t this about the movement, ultimately?) was quite good. The “Apollo” piece (“O”) really seemed a tribute to the Balanchine choreography, only with Apollo in a mirrored box, on his back, doing a little duet with his reflection. “The Rite of Spring” let me down a bit, for while the movement was interesting (Michael Clark can really do partnering – his dancers seemed to float in the air at time!), it just couldn’t keep up with the power of the music. During the most dramatic bit, there just seemed to be a little bit of tweedling on stage, but what I expected to see was something really, really powerful. I admit the fact it was performed (musically) on two pianos also didn’t help.

The final bit was “Les Noces” (“I do” for Clark), which to me seemed to be about the sexual desire of brides and, well, you know, the couples. There was a very interesting bit where the women dancers stood up and, with their hands pulling between their legs, dragged the male dancers off stage one by one. Despite the fact this was my favorite piece, the costuming proved aggravating, at first because it was so distracting I had to tell myself to NOT look at it (the shiny things on the dancers noses and the queue-like bald head prostheses on their heads were utterly bizarre), but then later because the colors of the body stockings were off from the dancer’s own skin tones. This only really made me nuts for the Asian (Chinese/Japanese or such, though apparently New Zealandese) guy, who got a BROWN body stocking. It was so off. Admittedly it match one of the female dancers, but it just drove me crazy because everyone else was almost perfectly matched and this just looked … like they were trying to make him look like something he’s not. And the end look of the woman coming out totally wrapped up in some kind of knitted outfit with a big curved knitted cap over the top – well, she just looked like she was wearing a giant willie warmer, and I wouldn’t put it beyond the choreographer to have done that deliberately. Oh, those crazy Scottish choreographers!

Anyway, though it was a good night, I would have preferred to just see two pieces (they were all quite meaty, so it wouldn’t have been like I would have felt cheated) and got home a little earlier. Tonight is Aida, and I sure hope it’s compelling because I am going to be worn out.

(This review is for a performance on November 7th, 2007.)

Review – Seven Deadly Sins, Pierrot Lunaire, La Fin du Jour – Royal Ballet

April 29, 2007

Caroline, Elizabether, and J were my companions for our trip to the Royal Opera House to see a mixed bill. The first one, “Seven Deadly Sins,” was absolutely the best (see picture). It actually was a sung operetta with dance accompaniment, the story of a girl who goes to the big city to make money and experiences all of the sins. It was very “3 Penny Opera”/”Cabaret,” unsurprising since the music was a Brecht/Weill collaboration (and with Auden doing the translation, it was truly a pleasure to listen, carefully, to the words). Sadly the singer wasn’t amplified well enough for me to actually follow what she was saying, which seemed very important given what was happening on stage. The movement was fairly interesting, but for this dance, I was most intersted in the story … and also the costumes! If girls always did ballet in corsets and garters, they’d be beating the punters off at the doors. Of course, they can always see this at a strip parlor, but probably not the rhinestone spangled thigh highs (likely from What Katy Did – never seen a lingerie place given credits for costuming before!).

This was followed by “Pierrot Lunaire,” a sad waste of Carlos Acosta. It was … I don’t know, twee. It made this grasp for high art and didn’t hit it and at 40 years of age had made the transition very poorly. The costuming and set was very conceptual, but … agh, let’s be honest, it all sucked because of the music. The style, Stimmtspiele or something like that, meant “sung/spoken,” but it meant this really screechy over exaggerated spoken style that, gosh, kind of reminded me of listening to Kabuki or Chinese opera, only without any redeeming musicality, or indeed anything to save my ears. It was 40 minutes but felt like an hour and a half. No wonder it’s only been performed 7 times since it debuted. I actually felt like my trust as an audience member had been abused and I was a bit afraid to go back in the auditorium after living through the dance beating of my life! I consoled myself with a quick bite of ice cream at intermission to make up for what I had endured, and returned, braced for the worst.

The final bit was “La Fin du Jour,” described as a celebration of the “long vanished life between the wars,” with girls in one piece suits and bathing hats being carried around by men in strange silk golf and cricket costumes. It was frothy and light and had as much substance as a big pile of pink cotton candy, but after Pierrot, I felt we had deserved our bit of fluff. Really, anything would have looked pretty good. We were exhausted from the middle bit, though, and bolted for the doors as soon as we could get out. That said, I’m still looking forward to the last mixed rep of the season, and I’ve already got my tickets bought and waiting.

(This review is for a performance on April 28th, 2007. The review was moved from my other blog.)