A Fly On The Wall, May 2, 2014
Going It Alone
by Jim Murchison
I was thinking about what is right and what is wrong with theatre. The Fringe is coming and there are a lot of one-person plays at the Fringe. That is fine for the Fringe. The Fringe by its nature requires compactness and touring ease and what better way to take advantage of that than to have everything you need in one vehicle and hit the road with it.
I don’t have a vehement hatred for one-handers and I usually give them a fairly good review because an actor has to know his craft and has to have something fairly well written to even consider trying it. I just think there is too much of it. The fact of the matter is that it is hard to survive as an actor, a writer or a producer in theatre unless you have another job or do a shitload of film and commercials. So I accept that even though there are only a handful of solo shows that I feel would not have been better with more actors. They fall into three types.
The first is the one to one conversation. My example is The Divine Sarah because it was staged as a conversation to the audience by Sarah Bernhardt without the actor ever speaking to ghosts and worked as a conversation where everyone in the audience believed it was to them alone that the conversation was happening. This also worked because the actor was Denise Pelletier who herself was divine.
The second type is where all the characters, seemingly different, have one experience that unites them. My example is 6 Guitars because the multiple characters all had a common thread that was well thought out and the moment that fused the characters together would have actually been weaker with multiple actors. Again Chase Padgett was brilliant. He had to be.
The third type is when the audience goes already being familiar with the material and the person that created it much like they would seeing a stand-up comedian. The sold out run of Dancing with Rage is a good example because the characters were designed by Mary Walsh and the audience would not have wanted other actors playing Mary Walsh characters. No one does political humour quite like her and her characters are part of the Canadian consciousness.
I have seen a lot of brilliant performances and some very entertaining solo shows and I applaud the perseverance and fortitude it takes to tackle them. I have come around quite a bit in my appreciation of them. I have stopped eating glass or smacking my head with a hammer before going to a solo show so that my night at the theatre will be more enjoyable than what I was doing before I picked up my ticket. I actually have liked every solo show I have seen this year, but my heart will always be with the ensemble.
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