Saturday, June 17, 2017

June 17. Day 168. I'll drink to that

The King and I opening night. I do love an opening night. I love the buzz, the bubbles, the nibbles etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (anyone who is familiar with the Rodgers and Hammerstein script will see what I did there). If I am honest, more than anything I love a small spot of people watching and better still people listening. It could be the journalist in me or just the sticky beak or both. Anyway, what I heard in the reception following Savoyards opening night was glowing. It reminded me that 1) not everyone spends on average three nights a week at the theatre. 2) Not everyone sits in an auditorium with a critical hat on. Most go just to be entertained. After all that's why they paid their dollars and a very important 3) Not everyone hates Rodgers and Hammerstein and those who do probably stay away. It can be sobering to remind yourself of that even after the champagne. Because the production was good I just didn't like it very much and that's Rodgers and Hammerstein's fault not Savoyards. Actually that's not 100% true. I do think theatre companies could try something new rather than recycle the classics especially those that feel dated and really demand a cast of actors from a particular ethnicity you can not hope to fill. But the King and I well and truly passes the bums on seats test even if it fails the Susan' Standard. So knowing the script was going to make me cringe with its inherent sexism and racism, I decided to concentrate on trying to work out what I was missing. I don't think it's the score. Getting to Know You, I Whistle a Happy Tune and Shall We Dance are jolly enough but the rest of the soundtrack is a little forgettable. The costumes and sets are always lavish and beautiful, you have to give it that. There's the cute factor of a tribe of adorable and talented children. And it's a love story and people love a love story. Okay, that's a few points in its favour. But tonight I found something else. As I tried not to dig my fingernails into my skin as our heroine Mrs Anna helped prove the King of Siam wasn't a barbarian by dressing everyone in western clothes, setting a table with western trimmings and stocking it with western food and teaching people how to shake hands and bow appropriately, it struck me. I say the musical is dated but really how much has changed? Is it not true that we are still hear almost daily complaints about cultures whose women should dress more like the west, where the food should be more like "ours" and where they should abandon their customs and integrate? The more things change the more things stay the same. It may be that I was the only one drawing that out of the dialogue not because I'm more analytical but because everyone else was too busy going with it and enjoying it for what it was. That's okay. That's the beauty of the theatre. There's no "right" response. There's no essay challenging you to explain why The King and I remains relevant in today's world. Some of us write one in our head all the while whistling a happy tune, afraid of the take home message. Most just drink the champagne. You can't argue with that. For more of what we thought of the production, listen to our podcast.

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