WHERE HAVE I BEEN ALL MY LIFE?
by Alecky Blythe.
New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 28 April 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 2.15pm.
Audio-described 28 April 2.15pm.
Captioned 24 April.
Post-show Discussion: Tue & Thu.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 April.
Recreated actuality is revealing yet limiting..
After fifty years of a Vic theatre in the Potteries (the New Vic is the company’s second home), Theresa Heskins is only the third artistic director. There have been three ages too of a form that’s helped make the place distinctive – the local documentary.
Peter Cheeseman’s era saw plays about Potteries history and present-day struggles, built from transcripts and, where possible, interviews. Later, less politically vibrant times, brought a new order with Bob Eaton’s Good Golly, Miss Molly!, combining a local housing campaign with rock music.
The characters in Alecky Blythe’s newly-researched play are mainly entrants to ‘Stoke’s Top Talent’, a spin-off from TV shows that give temporary excitement to mostly no-hope performers.
Blythe recorded sessions with contestants and organisers of the 2010 contest. Amateur inadequacy is rampant; contestants arrive without backing tracks or bottle-out before their turn. They want to be famous without the 99% sweat of genius. They want to escape families, unemployment, routine, tedium. As the impresario overseeing things says, such contests work where there’s a settled community and low aspirations.
Blythe’s developed the paper-free documentary. There’s no script, just edited recordings, feeding lines to actors though earpieces as they’re speaking. It’s unexceptionable, and doubtless helps performers avoid editorialising or exaggeration. Whether it leads to any greater understanding, as the performers awaits the next line – some of them surely learned by this stage – is more doubtful, as is the question of how close to the original the impact is, coming from actors of possibly different voice quality and physical manner.
Limiting the production to what has been recorded and tying delivery so closely to individual speech-patterns (the early Vic docs allowed for variety of means, songs etc) limits character to the episodes recorded and ties-down actors’ imaginations in ways that are restricting as well as, at times, precise.
Each act notably ends with theatricality rather than dramatic revelation or resolution. The second culminates with showbiz razzmatazz, colourful but shallow. And the first, tellingly, with a montage on TV screens of the Potteries’ former industries and community. That’s strong – and it’s where the dramatic imagination’s given freedom.
Mark’s Mum: Angela Bain.
Mary: Rebecca Brewer.
Kerry: Mona Goodwin.
Sam: Samuel Hargreaves.
Brian: Oliver J Hembrough.
Mark: Michel Hugo.
Graeme: Andrew Pollard.
Norman: Peter Temple.
Woody: Ali Watt.
Director: Theresa Heskins.
Designer: Patrick Connellan.
Lighting: Chris Ellis.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Musical Director: Malcolm Newton.
Video: Will Duke.
Voice coach: Mark Langley.
Movement: Victoria Worsley, Beverly Edmunds.
Assistant director: Samuel Wood.