|My son and I are regulars at Tricycle Theatre's children's plays on Saturdays and usually the plays are fine, not wonderful. But the play this past Saturday was so noxious, so degrading to the human spirit that I have to post this review just to try to counteract the negative karma hanging over Kilburn as a result of the catastrophe sadly titled What A Wally.
One person on stage for one hour. No plot. A few "magic" tricks, a few audience participation gags, a little physical humour. I don't believe in the death penalty, but if I did, I think that the man who created and conceived What a Wally richly deserves it.
Here's my case:
1. Frustrating and inane panto-style discussions with undercurrent of hostility:
There seems to be this received wisdom in British children's theatre that one needs to engage in panto-like audience interaction with the under-elevens in order to hold their attention. Umm, wrong. A good narrative with interesting characters works very nicely, thank you. This guy had about three gags and dragged out the time between the gags with "shall I show you how the fish can jump?", "here?" "now?"
"today?" "this instance?" "shall I get on with it"? He was boring and the children were bored. The parents were bored and, in my vicinity, openly hostile after a while. The exchanges did nothing except exacerbate the palpable hostility coming from Wally and give precocious children the chance to try to show how they are more clever than the wally on the stage. And delay, without adding even a frisson of anticipation, the bad gag at the end of the torture.
2. Racist. This one killed me. the guy kept asking for volunteers from the audience. well, this being Kilburn the kids weren't all named Jack and Harry. One girl, Asian, was named Si and one girl, black, was named Iruquai. Well, this guy looks like he is eating maggots when he tries to pronounce these names, makes fun of the names and asks the kids if he can call them Bob instead. When a white kid named Kevin was chosen for a tragic gag near the end, the racist looked happy to have a potential future fellow BNP member up on stage with him.
3. Insulting. I love a good gag but insulting the audience is a cheap and nasty way to do one and this guy went after the audience with a real venom. In a kid's show on Saturday morning. Here's a few examples:
a. after drying his hands on a woman's long hair: "From the stage, your hair looked real, madam."
b. "And if we hit scooter too hard, his bottom will fly off. and if it goes into that man's face, we won't be able to tell the difference."
4. Disrespectful to himself, the craft, the audience and theatre: I'm sorry, but the number of times a child will go see a play and develop a sense of the theatre is finite. And to waste their time with something so stupid, something with no story, something cheap and easy to perform - well, I'm sorry but that is so cynical about life and art and children that it is sinful.
Interestingly, the "play" ended with him asking for a round of applause for the children who volunteered and asking for a round of booing for himself. I obliged by booing loudly as did the people around me.
Freud says that the conundrum of the comedian is that they hate the audience for laughing - comedians tell the truth about how they see the world and the fact that the audience finds the view laughable shows that the audience doesn't understand him and that he is alienated from the world.
This wasn't Wally's problem. He hated himself and wanted the audience to feel hated too. It was so obvious it was painful.
We're going back in two weeks for Mr. Bubbles Saves the Day. It better be good, or I'm sending a strongly worded letter to the Tricycle.
Last edited on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 10:09 pm by Swann1719