“A Play Gone Off-Key“
Reviewer: Cordelia Lee
Performance: 9 June 2017
Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano satirises social conventions as senseless alluding to the emptiness in man’s existence. The Martins pay the Smiths a visit at their middle-class abode, where a whole string of improbable events occur. The Martins arrive as strangers, somehow forgetting that they are married to each other. Along the way, the fire chief enters to extinguish a non-existent fire before recounting dubious tales nobody’s really interested in. Platitudes, aphorisms, and maxims of polite exchange infiltrate all discourse, emerging under inappropriate circumstances to reveal the futility of banal conversation.
At least, this is the message the playwright originally intended for his audience.
Yet somehow, in creating a “watchable play” with his cast from Young and Wild, Rodney Oliveiro’s direction dulls down the overarching message and critique of the human condition in Ionesco’s script.
Unfortunately, this renders the production little more than pure comedic entertainment.
It is unclear whether the audience realises the intent of the plot’s meaningless farce. An audience member is overheard saying, “I’m enjoying it, but I don’t know what the point of the play is. Yeah, maybe it’s not supposed to have a point.”
Well, I guess not.
While it is perfectly within the director’s purview to stage an absurdist play as “straight drama” for an audience’s amusement, it is nonetheless a pity that a script heavily imbued with important themes is not fully conveyed to its audience.
Shouldn’t theatre be more than just a few hours of gratuitous entertainment?
Furthermore, while their tireless energy and efforts onstage are commendable, the young cast can benefit from greater preparation and guidance from Oliveiro. One periodically trips over his lines, another drops his English accent, and others struggle to carefully transition between the extremes of their characters. Although exaggerated physicality is expected of absurdist drama, most of the cast – save for Mel Bickham – fall into the trap of blatant overacting.
Mel Bickham is a joy to watch as Mrs Smith, delicately balancing expected adult behaviour with moments of childish wit. She obeys conventional formalities of a proper British woman as she curtseys in one moment before gracefully transcending into a child-like innocence in the next. I can’t help but smile as she staggers forward to declare her profound realisation that the ceiling is above, and the floor is below.
Young and Wild’s rendition of The Bald Soprano wraps up as the nonsensical dialogue disintegrates into an incoherent cacophony of voices. With that, the cast take a final bow before an immaculately furnished drawing room, and complete drawing invisible question marks in their audience’s minds.
Unfortunately, a visually appealing set will not compensate for a meagre attempt at tackling absurdist theatre. The performance leaves the audience with a few cheap laughs that are soon to be forgotten, and no concrete message to hold on to.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
The Bald Soprano by Young & Wild
7 June – 11 June 2017
Drama Centre Black Box
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Cordelia is a second-year Theatre Studies and English Linguistics double major. She views the theatre as a liminal space providing far more than simply entertainment, and she especially appreciates avant-garde performances.