Friday, September 26, 2008

'Which Witch' bitching, part two

So many things to bitch about – where to start … ?? :-D

Let’s see. How about the problems arising from the trimming of the story. I don’t see why it couldn’t have been left at original length. Hardly anyone has a problem with movies that last 140 minutes, why is it different for plays? I don’t get it. They have an intermission and everything. And the way they rush through the story means that a lot of nuances are lost. This will be the subject of today’s rant. >:-) If I don’t get totally sidetracked. ;-)

The week of the premiere, several influential newspapers ran reviews of the production. Naturally. These were mostly very good, one – in Aftenposten – was pretty bad. (No surprise, really. If you think I sound like a bitch sometimes, you should meet their theatre critic.) I reread that review yesterday. The things she writes about the original production - WTF? I think almost all of her criticism is really unfair … and I think it backfires, because I think all it shows is that she hasn’t understood the play.

If you think that WW is shallow, with no subtext, whatever, then you just haven’t been paying attention.

Alternatively, you don’t understand the historical setting, and you want to force the play into some kind of relevance to current affairs. Because modern always works, right? You can modernize anything if you’re just creative enough. Gag me with a spoon … ! >:-(

This production has been very modernized – extremely so – to the point where I for one felt like they didn’t understand the historical period, the Catholic Church, the finer points of the story, the characters’ motivations or the obvious symbology in the play as originally presented. Like the costumes. Oy vey, the costumes!! Aargh, the costumes … !!!

Basically, everyone wears white. Everyone wears white all the time except for a couple of characters who change briefly at the very end. During the Blessing scene, they dress up a bit – I won’t say anything about that, I’ll leave it for Anéa to dissect in the comments. ;-) Looked v. strange, certainly. This bugged me for three reasons.

One: I love seeing beautiful costumes in plays and movies. ;-)

Two: The lost symbology. The director and the costume people obviously haven’t understood this, but guess what: the colors actually mean something. :-o There is a point to it. Maria is blonde and fair and wears light-colored clothing – her white gown in the Blessing scene, various pastel-colored dresses later, the white shift. Anna Regina is dark-haired and dark-eyed and wears dark and severe gowns. Daniel, who is torn between the two, belonging to both, is dark in coloring and wears light-colored clothes. Do you get it? Huh? Do you get it? I’m sure you do, because it’s really, really obvious. >:-) And it is a pretty good help to the audience, even if they may not be consciously aware of what they’re seeing … my mother, who’s not very familiar with the play, specifically said that she found it difficult to get a real grip on the characters.

Three: The lack of understanding of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that this shows. An understanding which I, call me crazy, think is kind of important in this play. I mentioned yesterday that Giulia has been cut from this production. Well, so has Maria's grandpa, Pope Paul. :-o It’s Gonzaga instead who performs the blessing. I think this is for two reasons. First: keep it simple for the stupid audience. Fewer characters to keep track of. Establishing Gonzaga more firmly. Second: in Bø’s translation of The Blessing it obviously worked better to sing kardinalen in the chorus than to somehow work paven into it. Lazy bastard. >:-( But here’s where they screw up. This is something I would really like the costume people on this production to read. Because, you see, a cardinal dressed all in white – that is the pope. That’s how you know he’s the pope – because he’s dressed in white. If he’s a cardinal, he doesn’t wear white. Until he becomes pope; if he becomes pope. Cardinals wear red, that’s how you can tell that they’re cardinals and not the pope. And that’s why a certain shade of red is called … get this … cardinal. Duh.

Basically, this production is so modern that it’s lost its historical context and is just floating free in some timeless limbo. They claim that the prologue and the epilogue ‘anchor’ it, I think they said in some interview, to our own time and make it more relevant. BS, if you ask me. Those two little scenes didn’t seem to have much to do with the rest of the play at all. Are we supposed to think that the introductory character’s reading about Maria’s story because she herself suffers in the same way because of an arranged marriage type of thing? How does that make it relevant? When the actress is blonde and blue-eyed any such idea is just completely implausible. ‘Sorry’.

I think it’s important to understand the climate of Italy and Germany in the mid-1530s in order to be able to really understand WW. The current production team don’t understand those things, and they obviously disagree with me. It’s interesting.

Did I get totally sidetracked or what?? :-D Check back later tonight, and I’ll post a weird (but relevant) picture to make up for just rambling like this. :-)

Update with photo:

I think it may be tricky for anyone who wasn't there to guess what this is ...


Paz said...

Am now filled with silent rage after they have defiled your favourite show am on my way over to Norway to protest, I will be coming armed with Lions and tigers and bears, oh my ;P

Leisha Camden said...


That's what's so tricky though - I don't know if I can say that they have ruined it - because the music was so wonderfully performed and in some ways I loved the experience. Just getting to hear this music performed well is so wonderful. It's just that they misunderstood the play so badly ... in my opinion. Because I am such a crazy fan. :-) It seems like people who aren't fans from before, or who are just vaguely fans, are really liking the production a lot.

I so wonder what I would have thought if I had seen it without all my baggage that I have when it comes to this musical.

Thank you for your righteous fury, it's deeply appreciated!! You will have to hear this music for yourself one of these days, though, so you'll know what you're defending ... ;-)

Paz said...

just wanted to get in the "lions and tigers and bears, oh my" quote, I will search the net for some of the songs to see what its like