There seems to be a very good production buried somewhere within Stellar Quines’ The Girls of Slender Means. Too bad I couldn’t seem to find it.
The play is based on a novel written by highly respected (and, for this year’s Festival, highly represented) writer Murial Spark. Spark’s novel is about a hostel located in London that allows young women of a certain stature to live. I know this mostly because I have since read the press release for this production.
You see, I had very little idea as to what was happening. I don’t know if it is because the adaptation is next to impossible to penetrate or if this is due to the staging. I believe that it is the latter. Everything looks impressive, with a large cast in 1940s and 50s period costumes and with large projections and lots of sliding screens that act as movable walls. However, I was sitting near the side, and I couldn’t see or hear half of what was happening.
And I know that I was not alone. Most of the audience members that were sitting near me were whispering throughout the whole performance, asking neighbours if they understood what was happening. Most didn’t, and when it came to the end of the performance, many expressed their dissatisfaction by refusing to clap.
And yet, those few moments that were clear, moments with characters that were fleshed out and performing in an area that I could actually fully see, were electric. There were some truly great moments on that stage, which frustrated me all the more when the next scene would come and again I was shut out. It didn’t feel like I was an audience member; instead, it felt as if I was a curious passer-by who kept sneaking peaks at something I was not meant to see.
I have since read other reviews and spoken to people who have attended this production. The majority of those with favourable comments seem to have: a) known the story and/or b) sat near the middle of the audience. I have yet to find someone who didn’t like it because they thought it was poor; most say they just felt excluded.
I’ve seen enough theatre to know when a production is polished and accomplished even if I don’t like it. This looks like a winner, and for all of the talent involved, it very well should be. So, did I not understand much of The Girls of Slender Means because of where I sat or because the production just didn’t speak to me? I still don’t know.
Playing at the Assembly Rooms at 14.50 until August 31.
Filed under: Edinburgh Festival 2009 |