Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Riflemind by Andrew Upton, Trafalgar Studios 1, 16-Sept-2008 – Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman

I was slightly distracted watching this play, by trying to work out who the models for the Riflemind band were. From what I could see as I was watching, they were supposed to have flourished in the very early 90s producing half a dozen albums, touring the world and filling stadiums before splitting in the second half of the nineties. I don’t rate my musical knowledge too highly but I couldn’t think of any British bands that got close to fitting that pattern. Most decent British bands of the early Nineties (that I could think of) seemed barely to manage to finish their second album before imploding. I reckoned that it would have been a better fit to make them a Seventies or Eighties group (reading the blurb seems to indicate this). Then I realised, belatedly, that as the play I was watching an Australian play I should look for a model (but not an exact correlation) for the band from down under. And I could think of at least a couple. I blame the Scottish accents employed John Hannah and Paul Hilton for fooling me.
This play left me wanting more, which arguably is a good thing. It also left an awful lot unsaid which is probably a bad thing. I wondered if the playwright reduced the number of characters from seven to four and concentrated on the relationship between John (the band’s leader and composer), his wife, his band-mate brother and the drummer (and I’m not sure about the drummer), then perhaps it would have been much more powerful. I felt that the scenes between John, his wife, his brother and the drummer were the most effective but perhaps it would have been much more difficult to tell the story and set the scenes without the extra characters.
Of course, who am I to tell people what they should have written – I’ll be suggesting amendments to Hamlet next. The play works fine as it is and maybe letting too much light in on the personal relationships between the four would have diminished the whole.

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