A few people saw me at the opening of Arthur Miller’sÂ Broken Glass at The Fugard on Thursday night, and a couple of them have asked me what I thought. I guess there has been a bit of a surprise that I haven’t written anything. So here’s why.
I wasn’t sure I was going to write anything; I wasn’t sure it was fair, since my date and I left at interval, and unless I am in a rage of offense about the terribleness of a show, I don’t think it is fair to write. But we didn’t really leave because of the show. We left because of our seats.
Again, it doesn’t really seem fair to complain; I was invited to the opening night after all, but actually, it was more like a punishment than an honour. It was my first time at The Fugard. I used to work in the building, when it housed AMAC, and I would climb up the stairs to teach a motley crew improv. So I was suitably impressed when we walked through the grand doors and into the gorgeous foyer/bar/bookshop area. I felt like I had entered a portal from the grimy streets of Cape Town directly into West End. What a transformation! Then I saw my date’s face when she saw our tickets and I had a feeling we were in trouble. Up the stairs we went, stopping briefly to salivate at the most magnificent rehearsal space I have ever seen in my entire life. Up even further we went. To our barstools in the ceiling; SSL22 and 23 to be exact.
It was then that I realised the extent of my punishment. We were deeply along the left hand side of the venue, with only the right hand side of the stage visible. We were on bar stools. We were in the sky, with a perfect view only of the cellist who played the in between music between scenes. We negotiated awkwardly with the other fellow Siberian outcasts next to us, too afraid to lean too far forward in case they couldn’t see. It was awful.
I stood for the second half of the first act. When my date whispered about whether I had a policy of leaving at interval I didn’t give it a second thought. My back couldn’t take another session of standing. And I didn’t feel like doing that for what was ostensibly a radio play for me. I know that all my quibbles with the performances of the actors would have lessened if I could have seen their eyes, or faces!
We left. So, here’s what I think, dear Fugard Theatre. Thanks for the comps, but no thanks. Do not invite people and then make people sit there, in the Siberian Steppe equivalent of theatre seats; especially for traditional, old-fashioned theatre, more suited to a proscenium arch space. Maybe, if really poor, desperate students of theatre are prepared to pay R15 to sit there, on the understanding that they have been given a special chance, then use them. But, I felt like I was being sent a message. You can come to opening night, but only just. The problem is that you can’t watch theatre from there and not hate every last second of it. I know that the production really wasn’t that bad, but from where I was the accents were inconsistent, the relationships unconvincing, the Jewishness stereotypical, the play dated; Sir Antony Sher notwithstanding.