STC’s Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness directed by Sarah Goodes

I really wanted to like this show. It had all the promise of a powerfully engaging show. So why did I come out 100 minutes later not giving a toss?
Was it the writing? Unlike Anthony Neilson’s more sophisticated work, ‘The Wonderful World of Dissocia’, this play felt like it wasn’t in control of its subject, style or characters. While it seemed to chug along at times, it struggled to stay on task, like a temperamental teenager who wants to be treated like an adult but behaves like a hormone- riddled man-child. I really don’t know what this play was trying to be. I know it was a mesh of styles and I understand it strove to set up conventions in order to break them but in the end, if the message is blurred and your audience aren’t satisfied, there’s something not working.
Was it the actors? They seemed to be slogging their guts out on this. But it was a bit like watching really accomplished performers, where I can see they have amazing skills but the characters aren’t quite sufficiently built in dimensions or detail. And I find it hard to say that because really, the actors were superb. I do think Paul Bishop was miscast- I think he was too young and pretty to play Edward Gant. A great actor, that’s not in dispute. But I get the sense that Gant needed to be much older in order to highlight the play’s reveal in the end, to showcase the suffering over the years of the character and the tension of his promise and his existence. And perhaps if you don’t get Gant right, it makes it even harder to enter the world of his troupe.
Was it the design? Once again, an outstanding display from new designers ‘Romance Was Born’. The mask, the costumes, the staging were all beautiful interactive pieces in the play. And yet, was this distancing me from capturing the style of this run down body of actors, all trying to redeem their existence in a world they have either been outcast or tried to exit. Did the design detract from the bleakness of the message by being too pretty? Would the play have been better served by reflecting the lives and world of the characters as they try to create meaning in a world that has given them nothing but a chance to belong to this run down, desperate group of storytellers?
Was it the directing? Did Sarah Goodes struggle to find the pathos in the characters? I just don’t know.
Was it the ending that asked us to accept that the action of the play was contrived and now what is happening is real? Did we just find that leap too much to believe? Did the actors not pull it off? Was it just poorly written?
Perhaps all these fine separate pieces just didn’t sit well together and as a result we have a pretty jigsaw that make a series of disconnected images but not a complete picture.
All I know, despite its intention, is that this play did not hit the mark.

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4 comments

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Laurence Coy July 29, 2011 at 5:01 am

Somebody's going soft!

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Niall Tangney August 1, 2011 at 7:34 pm

i really liked this play but it did tend to lose it's way in the middle, if i remember rightly..it's been some weeks since i saw it. However my interest was regained and that sense of wonder and the musing on the reasons why we attend theatre, which the play talked about i think, i found really interesting and thoughtful.

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Anonymous August 2, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Post modernism = meaning is made by the individual audience members, the 'group' meaning is not set in stone and the medium doesn't have one pre-ordained meaning. The problem is that in a lot of theatre the timing can be off, and the audience becomes bored and drift away. The trick is keeping the audience alert and asking what is happening next.
an old theatre adage: When the directing is great the actors are credited when the acting sux the director is blamed.

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Anonymous August 9, 2011 at 5:50 am

I’m confused. I’m 17 years old and I quite like the theatre but I’ve started to go off it. I like the simple form of it, and it seems to have lots of potential as a place where I can devote my creative future, but there seems to be a smelly residue that clings to it: ie always having to be ‘about something’ or have some kind of ‘message’. It’s ringing alarm bells and I’m thinking I might end up wasting my life in theatre because it’s not so simple and fun afterall. Maybe I should get into tv, movies or musicals – something commercial instead. Does this residue have anything to do their funding applications and the fact that theatre projects have to justify themselves as worthy of tax dollars by being about something, or have a message? I’m not sure. My mum and dad told me they went to see a show years ago called Me and the Night and The House Wine and it wasn’t about much at all but that it was one of the best nights of their lives. The guy that played the drag queen in Priscilla the Musical was in it.

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