Friday, September 7, 2012

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Photo: The Guardian
Mary and I came within a hair’s breath of missing the show, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, last night. At the last minute we needed a baby sitter whom we didn’t have yet, and both of us had worked so hard during the day that we didn’t know if going to the show should be done by us out of sheer determination, or if we should just hold back and rest for the night. That was one of those moments Mary worked through in favour of keeping on, keeping on.

Would we go again, in the same circumstances. A resounding yes, from me. And I doubt I could get away without Mary, either. Our last two outings have been to Covent Garden events where only a handful of people were in the theatre. We arrived 15 minutes early to a theatre already nearly full and where we had trouble finding two good seats together. But finally ensconced in them, we watched the surprise look of other patrons when they turned out of the hallway and into the theatre proper to see that only those seats at the very front of the IMAX were still available. Mary had picked up her own step on our way into the theatre for the intro was already running – also showing us what to expect from Hassmans, which is coming soon.

I thought there was a glitch in the live transmission for the show started and we saw 15 year old Christopher, our protagonist, in the middle of the stage, experiencing trauma and his dad helping him to disrobe. Then the screen went black . I wondered which part of the play we were missing. But in a minute the show was back on, this time with the garden fork through the cadaver of a Napoleon, the neighbour’s dead dog ... and the show continued for about an hour until we looped back to see that first scene embedded in the show – Christopher in the middle of the stage, experiencing trauma and his dad helping him to disrobe. A charming technique.

The cleverness occurred again – this time when Christopher was making a list of things that he notices in his environment. As the material goods were mentioned, i.e. a chocolate cookie, one of the actors was sitting at one of the sides of the theatre in the round, holding that object – just a half-second shot, as though it had been edited in from a movie.

Added to that was the Brechtian device of going into the audience to ask people sitting on the front row if they had seen Christopher, for at this point he was missing, and we saw their discomfort at being brought into the play without knowing what their line should be, but they offered it up anyway – no they didn’t know where he was.

Shivan, the school tutor interrupted Christopher’s A-level exam on stage, going over to him and saying, “Christopher, do not tell us what the proof of a right angled triangle is right now. We are in a play and the audience isn’t interested in that kind of detail. Just go on and write down the answer.” When Christopher looked chagrined, “She said, look, if anyone is interested they can stay after the play and those who are not interested can get up from their seats and go home right away.”

Those are enough examples of what made the play heart-warming, though Mary and I discussed our reaction to the play at the 20 minute intermission. We stood on the theatre stairs to talk. Both of us wanted a chocolate bar, but not a $6 chocolate bar so we stretched instead and talked about how we could not be sure if what we were experiencing was really entertainment. Perhaps the category of educational or enlightenment for us would have been better than entertainment, for though there was audible laughter from both of us, you know the tightening of the heart, and shortening of breath that happens when something you really know about gets captured on the screen and then happens to you. That was present as well.

Clever touches for me? Christopher’s beloved rat, the theatre’s power to use sound and light to let you know what is going on in someone else’s head, the costuming – people looking like real people (wrinkled t-shirts, sweat pants too short, even a 15 year old wearing sweat pants instead of jeans).

The theatre floor changed -- it was a blackboard, a mathematical grid, a movie screen (the scene was Christopher tries to go down an escalator). There is probably a whole essay to be written just about how important the floor is to the mis-en-scene of this production.

Anyone else see the show last night? I have not been in this National Theatre venue – it is small, intimate, and sold out for this run of the show.

Our weekend is revving up. Tonight we have been invited out for Chinese food with some of Mary’s friends from church. Tomorrow is the folk festival -- from noon to seven for our family at the children’s side of the festival. Sunday is always a long day – as the commandment says, a day of rest for everyone but the man’s wife in the commandment. And Monday while Mary and Leo go to the folk festival, the kids and I are renting musical theatre and having a festive night at home. We have been listing what they have already seen in this category and can only come up with Cats, Wicked, Annie, Mary Poppins and Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. I can’t believe that so few of my grandchildren are familiar with The Sound of Music. I don’t know how a person could grow up without running across that show on TV – but it may have had so many runs in the past that it doesn’t appear (or maybe can’t compete with cartoons) now.

Checking in again tomorrow – hope your days are as packed as ours are. Mary actually said that she is looking forward to me leaving, so they can slow down. I had to remind her that she is out in front. I am only trying to catch up to her.

Arta

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