Monday, 6 February 2017

You made me

And so to the theatre. By coincidence two of the plays that I have seen in the last week seem to be loosely linked in theme, being concerned with the responsibility of creator for creation. As creations in their own right neither were that good, but Frankenstein was better than Pygmalion, the latter being fairly dreadful if truth be told. Victor Frankenstein also came across as a more sympathetic character than Henry Higgins; and, considering that we first meet the scientist as he pursues his creation to the ends of the earth with the intention of destroying it, that reflects rather poorly on the Edwardian phoneticist.

I've never read Frankenstein - my taste doesn't really run to the Gothic - and although I suppose I must have seen dramatisations based on the original novel at some point I was still surprised at just how ridiculous the story is; indeed it makes no sense at all. The creature was manifested by a Bunraku style puppet,a device which worked extremely well. The five young actors switched duties as puppeteers and musicians seamlessly and effectively. In fact the acting itself was the weakest link. Victor, for example, comes across like a teenager who has had a disappointing experience on his gap year instead of someone who has played at God and come to grief.

But at least it was entertaining, whereas Pygmalion was a complete mess, full of gimmicks which didn't work. Virtually all of the original West Yorkshire Playhouse productions that I have seen recently have been really poor and this is no exception. I went back for the second act - many didn't - so I suppose it must have been better than Villette, although not by much. Shaw's play is social commentary on inequality of power between classes and sexes, something just as relevant as when he wrote it. A modern dress version could without doubt be made to work, but this farrago lost everything and gained nothing. The only parts that did work were Alfred Doolittle's two extended speeches about the undeserving poor and about middle class morality, and that's perhaps because they were played almost straight. I came away thinking that if they didn't have any faith in the play as written then they should have just put on My Fair Lady and had done with it. Mind you, I had spent most of the performance fervently wishing that they would burst into song.

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