The Murder Game Kings Head Islington
Posted 16 April 2009 - 09:37 AM
Posted 16 April 2009 - 04:18 PM
Actually, I was very calm when I bluntly said 'Why don't you do your own stuff'. I was just challenging what I perceived as two unfair and rude comments without substance and wanted to point out that it is, indeed, not easy to write a play in the first place. It is much easier to say 'Bah, didn't like it, good-bye'.
I think a person involved in the production of the play might have rather tried to influence public opinion at the beginning of the performances and not as they are nearing their end. Could I be right? Anyway, I am a (not so breathless) fan taking sides for the actors who, in my opinion, delivered a very good performance.
While there may be no reason to fall down on one's knees and gasp 'sheer genius', I think the play works quite well. The two main characters are intellectuals and public figures, and as Katherine Kelly gets angry about her adulterous husband, she would, of course, not take recourse to violence but try to ruin his reputation. This is perfectly in line with her character. Until the hitman-story comes in, that is. The plot, set in New Orleans and involving a legal peculiarity, is probably unique. There were many examples of witty one-liners and funny dialogue that a critic could have pointed out.
It may sound sacrilegious but I liked The Murder Game better than An Ideal Husband or Mousetrap (despite enjoying both). The reason for this is that these two plays are dated while The Murder Game is a modern, fresh play.
Actually, one line from Oscar Wilde mysteriously found it's way into the new play. Randall Kelly (M. Praed) says to Pito (B. Jones) at one point: "Do you always really understand what you are saying?" In 'Ideal Husband', it's Tony Britton who says it." Later, they sing 'My way'. Michael Praed is a dedicated Sinatra fan.
After the bomb hits Randall Kelly, he walks into his wife's office, all covered up in bandages with foam under his arms as it would be given to accident victims to keep their limbs in a certain position. Originally, Michael Praed was supposed to have sat in a wheelchair during this scene. However, the set was too small. Michael said to me: "If I'd been in a wheel chair, my feet would've been where you were sitting." Okay, not precisely where I was sitting but the first row would have definitely been in danger. Also, it had to be something he'd be able to take off quickly onstage. So the director and Michael decided on that compromise.
As Michael Coveny describes the scene, it becomes: "and the escaped prisoner (or is it?) who’s threatening Katherine for sending him down, breaks into her office covered in bandages like the Invisible Man, or perhaps the “A-bomb-inable” Snowman..." No, Mr. Coveny, it is indeed her husband that walks into her office and rails at her without saying a word to make it sound like he is so injured he cannot even speak properly. Actually, it was a scene that the audience found particularly hilarious. Katherine is alarmed only as he suddenly walks toward her pretending to attack her and suspects he may be Hostetter's man after all, but within seconds the situation is resolved as Randall takes the bandages off his face and laughs. It seems to be quite a natural reaction on Katherine's part, for who wouldn't be nervous easily if they were threatened to be killed?
It was nice of Mr. Coveny to mention that the participants in this play are actually acclaimed actors but I think his verdict is unnecessarily grim and keeps people from seing a fun play.
Posted 16 April 2009 - 06:11 PM
I have seen that Whatsonstage recruits new critics. In my opinion, a good theatre critic has
- an excellent overview over the theatre and musicals landscape and the world of film
- knowledge about books and films that plays and musicals are based on and influenced by and
- knowledge about the career of actors, singers, directors, and authors and their previous work for comparison.
For a review to be professional, in my opinion, it contains
- a short synopsis without giving away the solution or any gags
- relevant remarks about the participant's previous work, prizes and, if applicable, comparison with other plays of the same genre or with a similar theme
- information on how the play/musical was staged that way and why, if applicable
- a verdict listing the pros and cons objectively.
Seemingly "ingenious" word plays such as "abom(b)inable" or quotes such as "Bin Laden bad" as a verdict just sound like the critic wants to bolster their ego or appear superior at the expense of those people onstage. Such comments do not contain any useful information at all (especially, if there is no snowman in the play ). So even if the critic thinks the play was really bad I'd want them to explain why.
Posted 17 April 2009 - 02:39 PM
"The Murder Game ... Billed as a comedy, there is something unintentionally tragic about James Farewell's playwriting debut. Set in a New Orleans courthouse the clunky script, uninspired direction and horrendous video projection combine to make this, to borrow a quote, 'Bin Laden bad'." (Time Out, April 9-15, p. 122/123)
And now for this fictitious play:
'A Day Out in the Countryside' ... Billed as a comedy, there is something unintentionally tragic about James Smith's playwriting debut. Set in Cornwall, the clunky script, uninspired direction and horrendous light projection combine to make this, to borrow a quote, 'a place to get stung'.
Equally, of course: 'A Day Out in the Countryside' ... Set in Cornwall, this brilliant comedy about a family outing is full of surprises, twists and turns and witty dialogues. Don't miss it.
The review in Time Out about TMG doesn't do its job.
Posted 17 April 2009 - 09:09 PM
Thank you, Backdrifter, I will see what I can do.
I agree with Gordina! Michael Coveney's review is very one-sided and he seems to have left his sense of humour at home when he saw TMG.
I myself have seen this play twice. I found it fast paced, very witty, and extremely funny.
The whole cast worked so well together and there was certainly nothing 'local am dram society' about it.
'The Kings Head' is a very small intimate theatre, where the audience is right there with the actors.
If no one liked this play the actors would be the first to know, but this was not the case on the two occasions I was there.
Mr Coveney and his ilk seem to be the only ones to disagree.
Posted 18 April 2009 - 05:17 PM
I would definitely like to see reviews to be respectful and objective and not sarcastic and -God beware - non-sensical. This goes for every play, not just The Murder Game.
In the meantime, I have also posted reviews and opinions on other plays.
Posted 20 April 2009 - 03:58 PM
I don't think that simply disagreeing with you constitutes being nonsensical.
I mean, can you point to any disrespectful or overly subjective lines in the reviews?
Posted 20 April 2009 - 08:25 PM
Yes, I can explain what I mean, just in case you are one of those critics.
After Time Out's review I am not informed what the play is about in the first place and am therefore unable to decide whether I want to see it or not, irrespective of the critic's opinion. I have to go elsewhere to find out. It merely consists of putdowns of a general nature that can be thrown in arbitrarily. In what way is the play "unintentionally tragic", the script "clunky", the direction "uninspired" and the video projection "horrendous"?
Coveney has applied the manipulative mechanism of deliberate misunderstanding and summarises a scene in a way it doesn't happen onstage. This is bad news for a review that is supposed to be objective and professional. Is the play therefore really "wilfully bizarre"? To the audience it was pretty clear who barged into the judge's office. A critic always needs to know more about a play than the general audience does, even if he/she doesn't mention everything in his/her review. In this case he couldn't be bothered to find out that the "abom(b)inable snowman" was in fact a compromise because the stage was too small for a wheel-chair.
And now for the fictitious play:
'A Day Out in the Countryside' ... This comedy, set in Cornwall, sends the Carpendale family on an outing they'll never forget as, unexpectedly, their uncle Richard passes away. The only problem is he dies before his fortieth birthday, the day on which he was supposed to inherit a large fortune from his excentric father. How do you organise a birthday party for a dead person and pretend he's still alive? Will they manage to deceive the notary? This play has a touch of Hitchcock's "The Trouble with Harry". Despite a few really funny complications, it doesn't develop its full potential due to commonplace jokes and a somewhat predictable story. Still, it's well suited for a day out with the family.
Okay, now I know what the play is going to be about. To me, it's not all that important. Still, I might go to a matinée and take a friend with me.
Posted 21 April 2009 - 10:24 AM
Good thinking. Just in case I am. What if I'm just an interested theatregoer? What if I suggested that the only reason you care about the issue is because you're *obviously* a friend of the cast? It's just insulting.
To quote from that very review:
"Set in a New Orleans courthouse... centres around the trials and tribulations of a high-flying district attorney who fears his wife is trying to kill him, he hires a hitman to do her in before she can. They end up hiring the same man."
I think that's pretty clear.
To quote again:
"A clunky script lumbered with outdated cultural stereotypes (the Brazilian lothario, the dumpy English fool)"
There's your answer. He thinks the characters are lazy throwbacks that don't connect and are awkwardly executed.
I think you can combine that with the reviewer's line "on a too-small stage" to suggest that he feels the director hasn't delivered a production that utilises the space. Generally, "uninspired" just means that the production never lifts or takes flight: either that it isn't as funny as it might be, or as moving as it might be. That it's workmanlike.
Presumably he means the projections are either poorly put together or ineffectively used. Or both.
That's the difference between laughing *at* and laughing *with*.
I don't think there's anything below the belt in that review. I can't comment so much on Coveney's approach to particular scenes as I haven't seen the show, but with regard to the last part of your post, you don't seem to understand that everything you've complained about could be said of your fictional review:
One could say "oh really? In what way are the jokes commonplace? In what way is the story predictable?!" as your observations like "commonplace" and "predictable" are no more generic that "uninspired" or "clunky".
Posted 21 April 2009 - 04:37 PM
The fictitious review was an example of a synopsis that would enable me to decide if I want to see the play or not even if the points made by the critic were of a generic nature. I can see from Coveny's synopsis as you quoted it that he is setting out to give the play a negative review. There is more to the story than he says.
I have read two other examples of reviews for comparison. They were about "The Boat that Rocked". The review I read was in another language and covered a whole page of a magazine supplement to a newspaper (and I shall not provide a translation, you just have to believe me). The critic didn't speak of a "self-satisfied tribute" or an "overlong, poorly paced and slackly directed ... farrago" as Time Out's critic did. He gave a precise and positively formulated synopsis of the film (with a positive title), pointed out some positive points such as entertaining scenes and well compiled music and then went on to argue mainly that the film lacked substance because it didn't tell anything about the time back then but gets lost in arbitrary episodes onboard.
Although I had great fun watching that movie, I must admit he has a point there, and because he didn't brush the movie off completely, he sounds much more objective.
I have realised that Mr. Coveney is Whatsonstage's chief critic. Yet I do feel I have the right to voice my opinion that I disagree with his judgement and have enjoyed the play, alongside many other people. Other critics also have a right to give it a positive review as some, indeed, have done.
As promised in the synopsis by King's Head Theatre, I saw a play that I perceived as light-hearted and entertaining, nothing more and nothing less. I heard the laughter of the audience and saw smiles throughout, and to me it is totally irrelevant whether they were laughing with the actors or at them. Then I was totally taken aback at the spiteful, one-sided, "official" comments this play received. As, for this reason, I voiced my opinion on this forum, I was swiftly "accused" of being part of the production or friends with the cast and requested to register as otherwise my opinion would be "taken with a pinch of salt". I thought opinions in this thread would be more mixed. And you know what? Usually, I never rely on any reviews, I always form my own opinions and, based on that decision, I have hardly ever seen a bad play or movie. I just happened to buy Time Out because of my visit to London and I came across Mr Coveney's review because Whatsonstage keeps sending me those newsletters ever since I voted on their site.
The play is over now, and it remains to be hoped that Farewell's next project is more successful in meeting the critics' expectations. After all, several people were involved in TMG and decided to throw their coins in, and decisions were not made by one person only. I do believe that those people who put themselves onstage deserve more respect and objectivity.
(last paragraph added to end this discussion)
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