Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Poster child for boring theatre

I went to see The Poster last night. Cool theatre in a former swimming pool with a beautifully designed set. The play set in the Middle East...not so great.

The Palestinian/Israeli conflict is full of tragedy, misunderstanding, parents losing children, bigotry, racism and manipulation on a grand scale. So, a topic rich with possibilities. I didn't expect to be bored.

This play was a dishonest, clich├ęd, lazy, condescending piece of work. It's the kind of play that makes people decide they hate the theatre. About 40 minutes into the play I found myself thinking "Hurry up and blow yourself up, so I can get out of here.” Okay, I was cranky having just woken up from a nap.

Instead of relating to the characters or feeling empathy for them, I just wanted them to shut up. Why is shouting considered an accurate display of despair? The overwrought acting made it impossible to connect to these one-dimensional characters.

Portraying both sides as lands bereft of any subtleties, compassion or humanity, just reduced the whole situation to media sound clips. (P.S. Mr. Serious Playwright: We've all seen those clips before and know what is going on. We don't need it explained Ad nauseam.)

There probably some good writing in the script but with a underdeveloped and really predictable plot, The Poster is a one-note play. Since that note is so shrill, you stop listening. It becomes an exercise in endurance. Two hours feels like two years.

With so much telling instead of showing, I felt I was being lectured. I had flashbacks to other mind-numbingly boring diatribes I have been subjected to over the years. In the end, I just didn't care. The playwright does everyone disservice. Instead of considering the lives of these people, seeing them in a new light, being touched by their situation, wanting to understand the situation, we just wanted the play to end. Though, we did find the soiled underwear bit unintentionally funny.

It seems the playwright grabbed onto the topic because it’s controversial but didn’t make any effort to explore the situation in order to produce something original or create characters that were true. The banner at the end – cheap shot.

Note to playwright: Other productions give their audience an intermission. A good play can hold your attention even during a pee break. Where you afraid no one would return after the first act or was holding us captive part of trying to make us feel the PAIN.

Note to theatre: Another one of these productions and you are going to have to change your slogan to: Boring the world, one play at a time.


  1. For awhile now, I thought I was alone in thinking that theatre was becoming more "lecture-like" than just showing and, allowing us to develop our own thoughts, impressions and convictions (thus critical thinking). Thank you for your post. Your comments clearly justify one of the reasons why I've stepped back from live theatre.

    Thespian turned blues singer.

  2. A steady diet of plays like this is killing theatre and turning people off live theatre at a time when it needs support. Thanks for your comment C-Fe!

  3. I saw that play... I agree that less is more in so many ways. I'm not critical of the message so much as the way it was delivered.

  4. The message is really important and that's why the pay fails so miserably because we stopped caring after watching it.

  5. ah, I think I meant play fails so miserably in that last comment...must have been thinking about my upcoming paycheque when I typed that!

  6. Kind of felt shanghaied. 2 hours with no pee break reminded me of those awful 80's workshops where folks were locked into conference rooms and shouted at until they wet themselves, all in the name of becoming better people.

    The cliches didn't bother me, ('cos life in the 21st century is pretty cliched anyway...) nor did the shouting per se, but the relentless 'laying it on with a trowel' started to grate after a while.

    The whole thing could've benefitted from some vigourous pruning.