There are times when I go to the theatre that I feel as if I’ve missed something. It isn’t that I’ve failed to enjoy the play (or in this case playlets) or the performances, it’s more that there was something bigger going on, a subtext obvious to everybody else, that I just couldn’t see.
In this case I think it has something to do with the fact that I don’t really know what’s so special about Peter Brook. It isn’t an Emperor’s New Clothes situation, I’ve only seen two other productions directed by him and they were both good (his Hamlet with Adrian Lester was a bit short and over cut for my tastes but still good) and this collection of small plays was fine. It was just that I felt as if ought to have seen something extraordinary and I didn’t think it was. I’m not saying it was dull or flat or in any way bad but while I thought it was good and enjoyable I got the impression that the rest of the audience were thinking “Wow!”.
Peter Brook has been revered as a director for about four decades and directors and actors head to Paris to “learn at his feet” so may be I’ve picked up enough second-hand Brook to be unfazed and unamazed by the real thing. Am I that jaded?
It was similar with the performances, it took me a while to get into Kathyrn Hunter and Marcello Magni but now they are firm favourites and I always find them excellent. However if I say to myself that they were “excellent as always”, somehow, in my head, it feels as if I’m saying that they were just ordinary. It didn’t help that the thoughts going through my head as watched Kathryn Hunter doing Rockaby had more to do with wondering what it would have been like to see Billie Whitelaw do it. I was rather taken aback by the rapturous applause at the end of the piece and felt that my neighbour clapping with out-stretched arms was a little over the top but I knew that I could well be wrong and I felt as if I hadn’t been paying proper attention.
Marcello Magni had me thinking along the lines of “I’ve seen him do stuff like this before; he’s very good”, which, to me, sounds conceited and almost like a reverse compliment. Actually one of my major thoughts about mister Magni was how much better he looks with the remnants of his hair cut short.
For all the enjoyment I had during the performances, I left the theatre feeling as if I’d missed the point.