Friday, 15 July 2011

London Literature Festival - Review

It was not the hills but the Spirit Level that was alive with the sound of music during an entertaining performance of The Post Show Party Show by turns hilarious and poignant, in which award-winning writer and performance artist Michael Pinchbeck, with his mother and father, recreates the post-show party at which his parents met after an amateur dramatic production of The Sound of Music. This performance is complete with its own unique interpretations of that classic soundtrack which filled the childhoods of so many.

“We are renacting this for the first time tonight”, said the father, “We have reanacted it before but not in this way”, and indeed the performance wonderfully brought out the sense intrinsic in theatre – in contrast to film – that each show is a unique performance. ”I have confidence in confidence itself”, say the duo, and this is indeed a confident performance. With only three actors, the intimacy of theatre is used to atmospheric effect as the blood-red lighting creates the sense of a reality bathed in the hues of memory.

There’s a sense that the “post” in the title also refers to the post-modern techniques used to great effect in the show, including the awareness of audience, who are brought in through direct questions to us: “Would you like to see us recreate the postshow party without words?” and “Are you thinking?”. They stop to reflect upon the progression of the narrative, pausing halfway to consider what has been and what is still to come whilst towards the end it is commented: “we are standing in the wings of the story”.

As the show races through scenes and songs interpreted from the Sound of Music, particularly powerful ones are ‘scene 8, ‘Climb Every Mountain’. “Follow every rainbow until you find your dream”, sees father racing around son as he clutches his guitar. A synopsis of “The Sound of Music” details the novice young nun Maria arriving at her new employer’s to find tension between the children desperate for their father’s love and attention.

The actors make comically effective good use of the available props: “Climb every mountain”, for example, sees chairs stacked three high which the son climbs, chairs which are then dismantled and used in a counting game to “do ray me fah”.

“This is a map of the present on the stage of the past” says the son, whose mother Vivienne (Michael’s mother and Tony’s wife) has a cameo speaking part. There is a gentle nostalgia brought out in the lyrics they select to to sing: ‘somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good”.

In the final act, “So long, farewell”, the intimacy of the show is brought out brilliantly as many of the audience members get a personalized farewell. The lights dim to leave a single spotlight illuminating a guitar, emphasizing the profound effect music has on memory, music which lingers pleasantly long after this performance is over.

Anita Sethi, London Literature Festival blog

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