Sunday, May 12, 2013

THE CROCODILE WHO ROARED and gave birth to a mess of pottage



Peter Pan! Magical words. Bringing back wonderful childhood memories of J M Barrie’s unforgettable book and play. I acted in it sixty years ago. And again, fifty years ago, in a pre-allowed musical version. Such class, such style, such a classic. Peter Pan: words that mean so much…
Which is doubtless why the re-makers of today like to get their hands on it. And its hallowed title.
I’ve seen Peter Pan ‘adapted’, usually with music and songs, a good few times, especially since Parliament let the copyright run out. Most notably, there was an American musical version, which did well on Broadway, with Mary Martin and later Sandy Duncan, but was distinctly for Americans only (‘Oh Peeader..’). The animated film was better, and had the memorable ‘Never Smile at a Crocodile’ to offer.
The play had an original score of music, too, by John Crook, so it is not unfriendly to musicalisation. And I remember fondly our New Zealand amateur musical version… with the tunes taken from Tschaikowsky et al.


But. But but but. And here goes the rant. Today I went to the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm (Berliner Ensemble) to see a show entitled Peter Pan. OK, at that theatre (what a lovely building!) I know not to expect kosher work. So I didn’t flinch when I saw the director and a composer or songwriter with their names in above-the-title size. I flinched a bit, when I saw that the show was to be ‘nach J M Barrie’. But competent professionals can do something interesting with ‘nach’.

Right. I’m theorizing here. And anyone can correct me. WHY was this done. Why? I can live with director Robert Wilson doing his ‘take’ on Peter Pan. Apparently he’s famous for that sort of thing. What I can absolutely NOT live with is having his deconstructed version of the play decorated by loads and loads and sickening loads of muzak and semi-songs of the most amateurish kind. But involving Cocorosie (billed big) – the ‘composers’ -- in the production seems to have been its raison d’ëtre. Did they pay to get in?  No-one would pay them.

Cocorosie (who is apparently two women) can’t compose. And if they are responsible for the English (yes!) lyrics, they can’t write either. Oh God, they aren’t hoping to sell this trash to the US market!!! Haha!  Hahahahahahaha!  I can’t describe it: pastiches of everything that might be deemed fashionable,  … ohhhhhh! Back to the amdrams, girls!

OK. You get the picture. It’s the bones of Barrie’s story and lines, camped up, and with this really awful amateurish music and singing shoved in. It’s execrable.

What nice bits there were came solely from Mr Wilson. The triple Nana was fun, the roaring croc (ever heard a croc roar?) was fun, the triple Mermaid was great – I laughed outright for the only time when Mermaid 1 opened her mouth and out came, not ‘Non piu mesta’ but ariooigh!

The cast? Well, you can’t evaluate the cast. They would have done OK at the Christchurch amateurs. But they were totally submerged by their awful material and the direction. My pet hates were Mr Darling with his country (!) solo, Tinkerbell with his/her old-fashioned St Vitus Dance routine, and Wendy with her silly makeup and attitude.


To make up for my theatrically unpleasant afternoon, I was seated next to a very beautiful woman. I wanted to invite her to dinner, but she fled for a plane (argh! she was probably Cocorosie’s agent!). But I said to her: isn’t this production anti-women? And she agreed. One more unpleasantness.

There was something disagreeable, even nasty in the portrayal of the characters. Especially the women. Oh yawn, they’d probably say that’s what they were trying to do. Anyway, it wasn’t the real Peter Pan and Cocorosie are an amateurish joke.

So now I’m opening a bottle, because after one of the worst and most amateurish – oh! I said that before - shows I’ve ever seen in Germany, I need it!




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