Friday, May 23, 2014

A Fly On The Wall, May 23, 2014

A Second Look
by Jim Murchison

A few weeks back I wrote a review of Seeds where I said I don't think I like documentary theatre. After seeing Oil and Water which is essentially documentary theatre about the crashing of the Truxtun in St Lawrence, Newfoundland, I guess I really do like documentary theatre.

Most critics seemed enthralled by Seeds whereas I was somewhat underwhelmed so I started to ask myself why. Oil and Water had this tremendous story of how a single event changed a man's life. The man was Lanier Phillips, the first black man to literally hit the shores of St Lawrence. The production was lean, intimate and theatrical at the same time. It was made more personal by the actors' voices and the manner in the way they manipulated the props and the set. These are things I love about the theatre and why big productions often leave me cold. For me the flash sometimes gets in the way of the substance.

I now believe that the main reason I felt differently about Seeds than most was primarily that the multimedia was filler and flash that got in the way of the story more than it facilitated it. I felt the same way about the players interviewing the audience on their scientific and philosophical thoughts. I still feel it was somewhat pandering and just added length to the show. 

The final reason that put me off a bit was the main reason I dislike so much on CNN. When playwright Annabel Soutar made herself a character in the play it reminded me of the way CNN inserted Sanjay Gupta into the fray doing operations in Haiti and ooh-ed and aah-ed at his wonderful work. Marshall McLuhan was right. The media is the message. I just don't think it should be.  

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