Friday, October 22, 2010

Episode 760: Bright Young Things & The Author

Lazed about for the better part of the afternoon, but at least I finally watched Stephen Fry's Bright Young Things, which has been sitting on my laptop hard drive for ages. Based on Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies, the film is deliciously decadent for the most part, and although the heartwarming ending plays out predictably, it's saved from being completely clich├ęd by the fact that it's brought out about by a mercenary transaction. The lives of the interwar period's Bright Young People are unabashedly showcased and deflated by Fry over the course of the film, and it's all done with such gorgeous excessiveness that the film just breezes along and before you've noticed, you've finished it and there goes a couple of hours of your life. I think it's really the kind of film that makes you want to read the book it's based on. (Yes, I know I said that yesterday too.) That said though, I kind of sense that Waugh's are the kind of novels that I could wind up either completely loving or hating, no middle ground about it. Should get them out from the Library at some point to find out for sure.

Then I went onto campus to see The Author with Bella. I think this definitely ranks among my most profoundly disturbing theatrical experiences. For starters, the play is performed in the audience itself, which already disrupts one of our most fundamental expectation of the theatre, that the action takes place onstage and we are insulated from it as spectators. The play only has four characters: Tim the playwright, two actors in the play-within-a-play, and an audience member. The dramatic tension of The Author derives from the impact that the play-within-a-play has on these four characters, pulling in the rest of us in the audience as they recount their individual stories. Slowly, we begin to piece together the horrifying truth behind all the events, and when we do, it's gut-wrenching. I mean, there were people in tears by the end of tonight's performance. It was harrowing, but you really had to be there to understand why, I think. It's not one of those plays that translates well in retelling after the fact. I bought a copy of the script, and interestingly, most of the audience (myself and Bella included) seemed to have left before the final piece of dialogue in the play, a segment that was somewhat conciliatory in its gestures, offering the audience a chance to decompress after the events they had just witnessed. In any case, it was brilliant theatre, and Tim Crouch joins a growing list of playwrights whose work I want to read (and possibly acquire).

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