Wednesday, 18 November 2009

REVISIT: Jest End

Never let it be said that I don’t believe in second chances.

On the other hand, let it be said that I absolutely believe in calling ‘em as I see ‘em. And despite thinking this version of Jest End is better than its predecessor, and regardless of the cast who worked their tails off to sing it well, the show still doesn’t come together.

For one, timing is everything in comedy. So why are there still jokes about Gone With The Wind, (nothing about Ernie Get Your Gun though) Mary Poppins, and Footloose (all gone for over a year) and bits about Little Mermaid and Legally Blonde (not open yet)? Ditto the farewell to Avenue Q which doesn’t close until March. All of the reality show bits are recycled from the last show as well, despite the fact that we didn’t have a casting show this year. I’ll almost forgive the Lord of the Rings song even if it took me forever to remember what it was from - though LotR wasn’t mentioned in the lyrics - but it was at least about flops in general. And still nothing about some of the biggest shows in the West End.

Second, the jokes are still one note. ALW and the Phantom singing “You’re Nothing Without Me” from City of Angels is a cosplay skit. It’s not something to put in a professional show, especially given that the joke is exposed as soon as people realise what the song is. The Barrowman and Donovan numbers were the same - Barrowman has a big smile and is loud, Jason Donovan hasn’t done stage in a while. Got it. Now do something with the other three minutes in the song.

How bad was it? I sat behind the creatives who were quite pleased with themselves, and I couldn’t hear all of the audience, but I *could* see the people off to the side thanks to the Jermyn Street’s lovely layout. And I saw that most of them weren’t laughing after the first verse of most bits.

Third, too much repetition. This is both in the lyrics (don’t repeat yourself in comedy unless you’re adding new context, and yes, this means writing new lyrics for each chorus) and in staging (I lost count of how many times the SA guy scratched his arse, how many times girls adjusted their tits, and how many skits ended with or involved someone giving two fingers.)

Fourth, too much repetition. This is both in the lyrics (don’t repeat yourself in comedy unless you’re adding new context, and yes, this means writing new lyrics for each chorus) and in staging (I lost count of how many times the SA guy scratched his arse, how many times girls adjusted their tits, and how many skits ended with or involved someone giving two fingers.)

See? Not funny. Neither is the third time Cameron/Fagin says "Maybe it's time to revive Miss Saigon." That's your second chorus. Your first is to comment on the upcoming Hair revival, the third is to change costume pieces and suggest Cats. See, it builds from happening to "Please no" to "Anything but that."

Anyhow, clearly there’s an audience for this sort of thing - after all, they packed the Menier for Forbidden Broadway - but despite the money and attention being thrown at it, Jest End remains on the wrong side of amateurish, feeling more like something being put on for friends (who seemed to make up most of the not sparse but not full house last night) rather than, you know, an actual paying audience.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

REVIEW: “Faithless Bitches”

I’m still quite busy and exhausted, but this one merits some commentary. If nothing else because it’s been 45 minutes since I left Faithless Bitches and I have yet to fully comprehend what I’ve seen. In fact, let’s handle this with a simple checklist of things I consider when I see a play at the theatre:

Script

Direction

Acting

Lighting

Set Design

Costumes

Production

Now let’s assign adjectives for all of them as they relate to Faithless Bitches:

Script - Puerile. Bad. Awful. Advertised as “camp” but goes beyond camp, insults proper trash (John Waters would reject this script), and firmly resides somewhere between “Naruto cosplay skit” and “Lowest ranked submission in an amateur playwriting competition.”

What’s it about?

70’s softcore starlet Chesty is dead, her friends and fellow softcore washouts Pam and Monique start fighting at her funeral over the fact that Monique stole Pam’s leading role in the mainstream film Faithless Bitches. Of course, Pam stole Monique’s man, who is the father of her son and the son is fucking her male co-star in the film. Monique finds all this out from Angel Delight, the new hot young thang, and the love polygon unravels. Oh and there’s the lesbian producer behind Faithless Bitches manipulating everything. See the potential for something interesting there? Me too. Too bad none of it ended up in the script. Lame jokes, no character development, plotholes, directionless plot twists, you name it this thing fails at it. Big time.

Direction/Acting - Flat. One-Dimensional. Amateur. Not that the script offers much depth to characterise, but this goes beyond 70’s softcore acting (or even 70’s hardcore acting - Deep Throat is a damn entertaining movie even if you skip the actual sex scenes.) Director Harold Finley doesn’t know where to pull the comedic timing from, which is only a minor problem given that he wrote the bloody thing. Especially bad in the acting department (since the website lacks names) were the annoying twink/queen playing Monique’s son, the almost as vapid boyfriend, and the overdone Spanish/Hispanic/Italian/Who knows what he is because he’s called every epithet for it husband. Oh and Angel and Debbie Blake the supporting characters. And Pam during her breakdown. The actress playing Monique almost gets away with it because old bitches deserve some respect. But I can’t respect her for doing this given that she’s probably stuck on profit share.

Lighting - Nonexistent. Useless. There was lighting? Besides the projections telling us what the locations were (hint to the writer: We shouldn’t need to be told what the locations are) that nobody could see unless they were in the front row.

Set Design - Overcomplicated. Too clever for its own good. Some of the set changes, mostly moving around the coffin/table, took longer than the scenes that the set was changed for. See also: direction.

Costumes - Ugly. Unflattering. Fugly. Monique’s final dress. The semi-sheer shirts. The bad shirt choices in general. Pam’s dress at the top of the second act. BAD.

Production - Wasted. Failure. Faithless Bitches did a promo at West End Live. It was seen by 10,000 people. It was done too early and made no impact (other than to place doubts in my mind as to whether or not the show would be good - should have trusted my instinct). They had a huge cardboard stand thing for it earlier at the Courtyard. And it ended up where? In the studio.

So, to the producer of Faithless Bitches, this is for you: My email address is on the side. I’m working on a couple projects that could really use some development and enhancement money, and it’s clear that you’ve got a few thousand Pounds to burn or at the very least need some tax write-offs. And I want to put up a new production of Hedwig.

To everyone else: Faithless Bitches is a play with a message, and the message is BEWARE. This is not a play for seeing. This is a play for forgetting about and avoiding. Seriously. It almost makes Ernie Get Your Gun look competent by comparison.