Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Love, Loss, and What I Wore - and a Goodbye

from the production at DUCTAC

For the past three and a half years I have shared library duty with a very special lady, but this Saturday afternoon was our last shift together because Deborah is leaving Dubai now to go back to England. She is calm and kind. She puts up with my gabbling rants and makes really great book reading recommendations. She casts a cozy spell over library members who all adore her. Both our regular Saturday afternoon visitors and I will sorely miss her warm presence. 
The last night of DUCTAC’s production of Nora and Delia Ephron’s play "Love, Loss, and What I Wore" (I think it was a DUCTAC show) coincided with our last shift together. Deborah very cleverly suggested that we go to the theatre and watch the play so that she could tick off going-to-a-theater-production at DUCTAC from her list and we could have a lovely evening out after her last shift at the library.

I love Norah Ephron’s work. She wrote the script for "When Harry Met Sally." She directed (and wrote the script for) "Julie and Julia" and "Sleepless in Seattle."  Nora Ephron had an “illustrious carrier as a screenwriter, producer, director, journalist, playwright and author.” Her collected journalistic essays have had me weeping with joy and sorrow - sometimes in the same piece. I was sad when she died because all her lovely writing stops. Bearing all that in mind, it hurts me to say that I did not enjoy this play. I have agonized for a couple of days trying to work out why I was left unmoved by this show. Was it the script? Was it the acting? Was it the direction? The staging?
All the right boxes seemed to be ticked. I could not fault the acting. There was nothing obviously wrong with the direction. The lighting was simple but effective, ditto the set. This production was well rehearsed; the actresses did not miss a beat. Sadly somehow, at the end of my cogitating my impression remained the same, from the script to the performance it was just a bit flat and a bit safe. I blame this on the staging. This show was intended to be presented as a sort of reading with scripts on music stands with the actresses sitting and presenting the 25 odd stories. I do not think this worked. Just because this was the intention of the writers does not mean it is the only way or sometimes the best way to present the piece. I feel much the same way about script cutting by the way. Writers are not always the best judges of how their work should be staged or edited. Now let me state here that clearly I am wrong because Nora Ephron had a brilliant career and I don’t have one at all. Fortunately, however, in my blog I am master of the universe and can believe what I want.
I think that a bit of bravery with the staging would have made this production really special. It was written for six players and in this production it was well adapted for four actresses. I did have one bugbare; I did not understand why the slimmest actress was playing the role of a plump woman and why a buxom actress was playing the part of someone flat chested. I was a bit confused by that. The cast was clearly talented and knew what they were doing so from that perspective the roles could have been swapped. However, having said that, this casting may have been the only way to adapt the show to cater for a cast of four.
You may feel that I have been overly critical of this show. I have seen many productions that have been far worse and I have been much kinder or I have simply not written anything at all. I justify my criticism of this production as it was directed and acted by professionals, not amateurs with no theatre training whatsoever. This show should have been somehow more; it had all the right ingredients and the talent but just did not work for me.
On a technical note I was pleased to see that the lighting / sound box was better hidden from public view than most of the productions I have been at. I was sitting farther back than I normally do so I don’t know if that is why or if the front of the balcony was dressed differently. If it was dressed differently other productions should find out what was done and follow suite.
Usually shows in Dubai start at least half an hour late. This infuriates me. It shows bad manners on the part of the audience and a lack of control on the part of the producers. This show started fifteen minutes late. That must be a record for Dubai. I challenge the rest of the Drama Groups to improve their curtain up timing to match that stated on the tickets. Maybe the tickets and advertising should say something on them like:
Time: 7.45pm for a prompt start at 8.00pm. Late arrivals will be admitted during the interval.
What I would like to have happen to late arrivals is to see them being locked in stocks outside the theatre -as an example. Sadly Theatre is not the most well supported of entertainments so really punishing late comers would not do at all. SIGH. What to do.

A rave review from The National HERE
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