Thursday, December 19, 2019

NT Theatre hype, and I lost only $20

I’ve generally been well disposed towards the increasing number of National Theatre Live events screened by Cineplex, part of a strategy to get audiences to come to the theatre and counter an ever-growing number of home-streaming services. Yes, the price is a little extra - I paid $18.95 for the current production of Fleabag, the one-woman play by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. But, hey, it’s for a production from Britain’s premier theatre, and the price is much better than regular theatre tickets to see the production live. (Some of those tickets were inflated to as high as £600 (over $1000 CAD/$780 US)). My problem was the length of pre-screening time that was filled with National Theatre promotions. In fact I started to think of it as propaganda since it was advertising disguised by high-culture narratives. At first I thought, ‘Ok I don’t mind a little bit of info about NT productions’ but the hype kept going - for a full half hour! Here we think we’re getting so-called cultural entertainment and yet we're bombarded with what is essentially advertising, and for much longer than for the average “crass” Hollywood movie……As for Fleabag itself, this is the of-the-moment play in England which has captured (or enraptured) audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and spurred the hit TV series of the same name. I was a little skeptical about all the fuss but went to see it anyway. My dubiousness proved correct. In the play, Waller-Bridge comes on stage and sits on a stool and begins regaling her character’s life, that of a young single woman in contemporary London. She runs a failing café which has a live guinea pig (guinea pig?) and only one down-and-outer as a regular customer who orders tea. In other words, it’s despair city. Meanwhile she moans about her boyfriend and yes, does hilariously describes a pick-up on the London Tube. But there’s not much else that is funny in this portrayal (which Waller-Bridge also wrote) of a Millennial’s quotidian life. In fact, the latter half of the play borders on melancholy and almost evokes pity. Yet the live audience, many of whom probably paid highly inflated ticket prices, cheered upon the playwright-actor’s stage entrance and then hung on to her every word, trying to wring out any possible laughs. Thank goodness I only paid $20 for my ticket and not a hundred or much more to attend the live theatre performance.

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