Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Saw Part of _People_

NT Live in HD's People-- Dorothy and Iris sing and dance
"I see myself more as Dorothy on the left, than as Iris on the right."
Last year Rebecca told me of a conversation she had with a friend who now lives in London.

 She said that what they had in common with respect to the arts is that both of them had seen all of the National Theatre productions that year.

Rebecca’s friend had seen the plays live in London. Rebecca had seen them in Victoria, B.C. thanks to The London National Theatre in HD.

On that point, it feels like a miracle to me, that I can see these plays in my own city – 20 minutes to the cinema and I can settle in for a three hour production I wouldn’t see any other way. And now a digression. I don’t know if it was because Bonnie had been talking to me about a curious incident between David and a little girl who had held a dog, but I was more sensitive than usual to the smells of the theatre. In David’s case, when the little girl and David arrived in the same room, he began sniffing the air around her, able to still smell that she had been giving a wet poodle more than its share of cuddles. He lives with a heightened awareness of smells.

On Thursday, in the theatre the sense of smell took over for me. First it was the buttered popcorn. Then I knew someone was eating a chocolate bar. It wasn’t long before I could identify the overpowering scent of a musky perfume coming from the woman sitting in front of me. Next I wondered if I could also catch the smell of relish and mustard as the scent of a hot-dog wafted by me.

When the movie, People, began I tried to put all of those smells behind me and concentrate on the opening scene. But now I could hear noises coming from the theatre next door, and even bells and whistles ringing from the slot and game machines that are in the front foyer. “Am I just getting old and crotchety. Everything is bothering me tonight.” A lady further down the isle hopped out of her seat and marched to the theatre door before I did, closing it to those sounds and the ambient light that was also bothering me ... and I could feel myself being immersed in the plot.

The play centres around the sale of an old English home, now that the woman who has inherited it, no longer has the wealth to sustain it. Will she sell it to the National Trust? Will she just sell the treasures inside the house to pay for further expenses? Will she rent the home out for movie set? That is the skeleton that the dialogue hangs on. But the acting of the two sisters and Iris, the companion was so exquisite. Perhaps getting older makes watching older people more interesting. I was watching the slump of the shoulders on the women, listening to the dry witticisms, charmed by their acknowledgment of their fading desires to keep up with electronic tools. The attic of the house was full of 1980’s newspapers that Dorothy was trying to make her way through. When she told someone that she was just now reading up on the Falklands War, and they replied that the war was over and England won it, she was so mad to have heard the spoiler.

I was happy until the second act when the video transmission began to fade. I know what it is like when the pixilation goes awry and the sound stops on my TV at home, and I have seen it in the Live HD transmissions, at least the early ones. But not recently. These interruptions must have gone on 20 times, severely breaking up the flow of the plot and making me loose the punchline of many of the jokes. People more disgusted than I began to leave the theatre. The manager came in 20 minutes later and yelled over the sound track, “So sorry, there is nothing we can do about this. We will be giving you refund vouchers as you leave the theatre.”

I was so crabby driving home. Kelvin kept trying to be positive about it. The more Pollyanna phrases he uttered, the sharper my critique became. When I got home I was so mad that I popped some popcorn (enough for a family of eight), put lots of butter on it and had my own movie extravaganzas in front of my TV until the wee hours of the morning.

That fixed me.


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