Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Red Bud by Brett Neveu, Royal Court Upstairs – Directed by Jo McInnes

I saw this play on the 21st of October and thought it well performed and directed with a good set that included a pick-up truck (not bad for 5 storeys up). It had believable characters that seemed to speak authentically (although I'm no judge of Michigan accents or speech patterns). So far so good but I was left unsatisfied. There was action but no story and in the end, there were too many unanswered questions about the history and relationships of this group of (mostly) men who attended the Red Bud moto-cross event for the past 22 years.

As is my habit these days any notes on the play (physical, electronic or mental) were discarded long before I reached home and I didn't attempt to write a blog about it.

Then in the last few days, as blog and newspaper reviews have started to come out I've begun to have a touch of esprit de l'escalier about this play. People aren't being kind about this play. They are generally complimentary about the acting, direction, set and even the dialogue but they all have the same basic complaints. They say that they don't have any feeling for the characters or their background. They can see that the relationships are tense but the play never explains why. Most of all they (like me) don't feel that they've been told a story.

Reading these reviews got me wondering whether the author of this play was deliberately trying to do something here. It appears that he can competently write character and dialogue so why did he ignore basic tenets of story-writing? Perhaps it is an experiment intending to show real life.

Reality, which can often be dramatic, needs to be shaped in order to become drama. Reality is just one damn thing after another; It doesn't explain itself. Real people don't reveal (often mutually known) information to each other for the benefit of an audience.

In this play there is one concession to exposition in the introduction of the 19-year-old girlfriend of one of the protagonists. It allows everybody to be introduced and a little interpersonal history to be shared but it doesn't go to far. The explanations are realistically fragmentary and don't reveal much more than is necessary to continue with the piece.

If I am right about this being an experiment, an attempt to show a slice of reality in more or less real time, then it's actually rather fascinating. It doesn't work, of course, in fact it is a bit of an object lesson in why you need dramatic fakery and disguised exposition to shape real events into a story.

Going against all the reviewers means I'm probably wrong but if I'm not then this experiment, however failed, should be applauded, a bit.



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