Saturday, April 05, 2008

Bliss by Olivier Choiniere, translated by Caryl Churchill, Royal Court Upstairs, 31-Mar-2008 - Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins

I probably shouldn't forgive Caryl Churchill. Strictly speaking it isn't her fault, she only translated the play. That said she must have chosen to do so.
Of course you aren't going to get me to say the play was bad. Odd, muddled and unsatisfactory perhaps but I wouldn't say bad.
The problems that I had with this play had more to do with the fact that felt compelled to check a few things later. Now I know much more than I ever wanted to about Celine. We weren't told her surname but the biographical details fit the self same Celine who sang Switzerland's entry in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1988 with what appeared to be an extra row of teeth (actually a couple of misplaced canines).
This woman's singing leaves me cold, so when the play started with a description of a concert almost as if it was a mystical rite, I felt strange. I couldn't work out if the narrators' seemingly heartfelt adoration of Celine was meant to be ironic. As unfair as it may sound I wanted there to be a sneer somewhere at the back of things but I don't think that the playwright had that in mind.
I wondered slightly about the potential of the play to generate lawsuits, not only did we have the un-surnamed Celine, the audience were required to wear Wal-Mart tarbards. Of course Wal-Mart doesn't exist as a brand in the UK but they have a presence through Asda and could have taken offence. Not that there was really anything offensive in the play about the singer or the brand.
The stage was set up as if the audience was viewing a piece of washroom story-telling from the other side of a mirror (with backwards-written grafitti on the cubicles and everything). The play shifted between its three stories (told sequentially) a little bit too easily. Celine's parents suddenly became the parents of an abused (physically and sexually) Celine fan and I thought I'd dozed off and missed a chunk. Much the same happened when the now hospitalised fan became a misfit Wal-Mart checkout girl. Like I said, confusing.
It is a recurrent theme in this blog that I seem to miss points in plays and I have to say that I missed the significance of the Oracle stuff. The audience were all wearing the name-badge 31CARO which when seen in a mirror comes close to being ORACLE. I just didn't see how the misfit character Caro, whose name badge it was, was acting much like and Oracle.


Andrew Haydon said...

Christ. Switzerland's Celine, huh? That undermines my Celine Dion theory rather, and makes my snotty comment about Billington in my own review rather backfire in my face. Eek. Better go do some fact-checking. Jesus. What I'd give for an editor.

trpw said...

I was (to go along with the play not being specific) cryptically referring to Celine Dion who did sing for Switzerland in 1988.

Andrew Haydon said...

Phew! Switzerland, though? I thought she was Canadian? (follows link and stops talking)

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