Wednesday 15 August 2012

EIF 2012 – Meine faire Dame, or Theatre Like a Broken Pencil

Let us start with the positives. There were some funny moments. Some of the music was well sung. The performers themselves can't be faulted. But overall this was dull, over-long and self indulgent. It was, in short, a classic example of deconstruction theatre.

The EIF programme note may lead you to believe that this is going to be a deconstruction of My Fair Lady. This material lasts Christoph Marthaler for about half of this two hour show. To fill up the rest he turns to among other things bits of Lohengrin, The Magic Flute, various pop songs and, I think, Lottie in Weimar. You may wonder how these elements fit together. The answer is that they don't really.

Each episode (for this is largely a show of episodes) outstays its welcome. Some moments (the girl with a problem getting down the stairs for instance) could be really funny but are run over and over again until the life has been sucked out of them. The overall effect is typical of this kind of deconstruction theatre. No meaningful relationships are created between the characters, in the audience I was left feeling emotionally cold.

Had it not been for the last especially tedious and annoying half hour I might have been more forgiving. At this point Marthaler discards all pretence and engages in a classic moan about the barrenness of any attempt at conventional theatre at all. Oh woe the meaninglessness of language! Oh hopeless any attempt at convincing dialogue! Oh woe, woe and thrice woe etc. I have lost count of the number of times I have had to sit through such a declaration – it was unengaging the first time (one's natural reaction is – if you think that then why on earth do you bother – usually followed by – and I wish you hadn't) and the passage of time has not improved it as a theatrical device.

This ending also caused me to question Marthaler's overall intentions. Earlier on it was possible to consider the piece an intermittently successful affectionate pastiche of the conventions of music theatre and the audience watching it. It still wasn't funny enough but I was prepared to be tolerant. By the end I began to suspect contempt for the form and to a lesser extent for the audience.

If you have tickets for this my advice is take a cushion to support your back, have a drink before it starts, and do not go expecting too much connection with My Fair Lady. If you have not managed to secure tickets you need not feel too distressed. In sum, this performance, like his Bayreuth Tristan suggests we have been fortunate in this country in not having to see too much of Marthaler's work. I hope this is not going to be the beginning of his English renaissance.

1 comment:

Hospitable Scots Bachelor said...

I admire your stamina at this time. The Festival's wonderful but exhausting!

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