When I started this blog I promised myself that I would be as honest as possible. My position was to send people off to see stuff I thought was good, and also to let people know about the stuff I thought was bad. I wanted people to know that I would say bad things about shows if I thought they weren’t good, but it has become harder and harder to do that. It is especially hard when you really like some of the people involved and you hope that the work is going to be something you love.
After seeing Dream, Brother (written by Duncan Buwalda, directed by Tara Louise Notcutt and performed by Carel Nel, Wilhelm van der Walt and Cintaine Schutte) at The Intimate last night, I had a hot, sweaty, sleepless six hours thinking of all the excuses I could use to not write this post. Because I really didn’t like this production, pretty much from start to finish. (And, do I jump in and say why, or do I just shut up? Well, I’ve decided to jump in. So, for all of you who liked it, or aren’t going to manage particularly hard criticism, stop reading now.)
First of all there is the story; which starts off simply enough. On the one hand, boy meets girl. In separate monologues other guy (psychiatrist) tells how he met, wooed, fell in love with, and married his woman. We follow both the stories, from scene to scene, with confusing dress changes for the girl, and much reciting of The Owl and The Pussycat, before things smash together, converge and degenerate into complete chaos, with a fight, a snakebite, madness and a most “unconventional” psychiatric treatment. Too much story. Too much to have to make sense of.
So that’s the story. But I have issues with the subject matter too. It feels like every play being made is “boy meets girl”, and what happens after, with no effort to portray actual people. It’s not enough to just give your characters jobs; writer, painter, vet, psychiatrist. The characters just aren’t fleshed out enough, so what happens is that the actors are forced to rely on themselves too much, and they end up making terribly obvious choices. This is especially horrible when things get emotional (or mad), and it’s all a bit cringe making. I love Carel Nel as a performer, but not in this piece. It feels like he has little to work with and he spends a lot of time in anxious preparation; lots of panicking and checking that he is ready, tucking in his shirt, straightening his (and other guy’s) tie. Cintaine Schutte is in the same boat (pea green or other), only she comes off slightly worse because the script and the direction is ungenerous to the female character. Unfortunately, her performance verges on trite generalisation. Other guy, Wilhelm van der Walt, is ok in the monologues but when his story converges with the other one nothing can save him from the ridiculous stuff he has to say and do.
Tara is excellent at making things look really good while using very little (again she thanks her parents for the use of their furniture!) and it did look good. But this time it wasn’t nearly enough.
Yes, it was the hottest night ever, in the sauna that is The Intimate, and this doesn’t make for great concentration. Yes, it was opening night, with all that kind of energy. Yes, I am still grumpy about how hard it is to make good theatre and then get people to come. Yes, it is possible that I am no longer part of these theatre makers’ target audience. Still, Dream, Brother entirely doesn’t do it for me.