Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Man of the Crowd" (Catch up - August 2006)

We’ve been going to productions by the Scottish Youth Theatre for many years now, ever since they did a show based on the life of a supposed ancestor of mine. The only years we’ve missed out were because we tried booking too late to get tickets, and the shows have often been the highlight of our theatre-going year. We’ve seen versions of “Into the Woods”, “Sweeney Todd” and also devised pieces such as last year’s “Ugly Duckling”.

“Man of the Crowd” was the first show in the Studio Theatre in SYT’s new home in Glasgow’s Merchant City and was based on the life and works of Edgar Allan Poe, with particular focus on the mystery surrounding the last few days before his death in suspicious circumstances. What follows is a tale mingling Poe’s failing mental state and his presumed physical form - portrayed by two separate actors which although initially confusing actually worked fairly well, even if the resemblance between the two was little more than passing.

Part music, part dance, part drama, part poetry reading the show was at it’s best when Poe was being tortured by his own creations but despite a fantastic set and some strong performances it was let down by the writing. We’re given hints of Poe’s fate but it’s all rounded up too quickly, the dialogue just isn’t snappy enough and at times heads towards Bond villain type stuff, and with a running time of around one hour a little extra wouldn’t have gone amiss. It might have meant more to someone with a greater knowledge of Poe’s works, but for me it just didn’t quite work. The cast also weren’t helped by a decision to go with heavy accents, both American and East European of which some cast members were more capable of than others. It hurts me to say it after having such great experiences with the SYT before and since, but this one has to go down as a disappointment despite the valiant attempts of a cast which could no doubt have shone given better material to work with.

2 Heckles

Anonymous said...

Hiya, I was in Man of the Crowd at SYT, it's been refreshing to hear your comments as often we were told that we should have been very proud to be working with Peter Arnott's script... although I found it very specialised in it's content and often very rambling. Although I see you liked The Ugly Duckling, many of the Ugly Duckling cast were in MOTC, and the play did not show their talents as well as previously seen in Ugly Duckling.

Waldorf said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment. It's always interesting to hear from those who have been involved with the performances we've seen.

I'm sorry we weren't more positive about Man of the Crowd. As I hope is clear from the review we felt the cast gave it their all, and I can still remember a great set design.

Although I read a lot, Poe isn't someone whose work I'm really familar with - apart from the obvious 'Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore"'. And I knew nothing of his life (or death). This again possibly had an impact on our enjoyment, but I'd be surprised if many others knew any more than we did.

It was a strange choice of piece for the 30th anniversary season, and the inaugural production at the SYT's new home.

However it's certainly not put us off future SYT visits. We really enjoyed Tales From the Arabian Nights in the same year. We're trying to make time to see When a Star Falls, and will be back again for the Summer Season. We'd recommend SYT shows to anyone.

The Ugly Ducking still makes us giggle - we can't hear Christina Aguilera's 'Beautiful' without smiling.