Monday, October 24, 2011

"Saturday Night" - October 2011

Back in 2009 Vanishing Point gave us a very different theatre experience with "Interiors" - a show where all the action took place behind a glass wall which allowed the audience to see, but not hear, the characters. "Saturday Night" pushes the concept further - we see more (three rooms instead of one) but hear less (there's no external voiceover this time round) - and the events are much more surreal. What hasn't changed is the way it absolutely captivates an audience.

"Saturday Night" makes significant demands on the attention of its audience as they work out what to take from the silent interactions on stage - often in more than one room simultaneously. But all that effort doesn't go unrewarded.

As the show is in part a puzzle, and in part open to interpretation, I'm not going to talk about the characters or the 'plot' - other than to praise what is a fine acting ensemble. I'll also add that it features the most oppressive sense of foreboding I've felt in the theatre for a long time - I'm not sure I'd want to see a Vanishing Point show where their main aim was to scare an audience. That's a lie. I'd love to see that show.

So, and let me be clear about this, I thought this was a spellbinding and wonderfully entertaining piece of theatre. And in many ways that's where this post should end. My problem is that I'm not convinced the show 'does exactly what it says on the tin' or in this case, in the programme notes. The programme and publicity material suggest they were aiming to create a show where the audience would use their imagination to interpret what they saw on stage, and I don't think that was achieved to any great extent. The performances are so well crafted that there's rarely much room for interpretation in individual moments. Yes, there are some details that require leaps of imagination (did I see a pizza being ordered by phone after it had already arrived?) but the central narrative is really only open to two possibilities. You either 'get it' or you don't . And if you don't, there aren't really (m)any alternatives that an imagination, however vivid, is likely to come up with. Leaving an audience divided ino those who 'got it' and those left thinking "what the hell was that?". And while the vast majority of those sitting around me in the theatre definitely 'got it', there were a noticeable minority who really didn't. I'm fine with that - I'm just not sure director Matthew Lenton and the Vanishing Point team would be.

Saturday Night completes its tour this week with dates at Eden Court, Inverness on 26th/27th October and at the Traverse, Edinburgh on 29th/30th.
Saturday Night is a co-production between Vanishing Point, Tramway, Teatro Nacional São João, Centro Cultural Vila Flor - Teatro Oficina, Sao Luiz Teatro Municipal.
Image by Joao Tuna/TNSJ used with permission.