Stirring, but not much of a dramatic play…
by Travis Carroll
If you ask any Bahamian on the street who Michael Pintard is, you’ll get a resounding, “He’s one playwright and a poet ya see.” If you ask anyone in theatre who Michael Pintard is, you’ll get a, “He’s one of the most serious and business oriented writers we have.” Well one or two might say that. Regardless, Pintard is as famous as drama writers (he’s not a playwright) get in this country. He’s up there with Ian Strachan, Nicolette Bethel and Telcine Turner.
For the past month Pintard has staged his newest play Not My Good Child between Grand Bahama and Nassau. NMGC tackles the theme of violence in the community. Like its tagline, it is a timely piece that does just what good drama is supposed to do – hold a mirror up to society. With that said, let’s look at what worked and what didn’t work in this production.
One of the best attributes of the production was the acting. No matter how stony faced audiences tried to be, everyone left the theatre shaken. Pintard’s cast hit home with their charismatic and haunting performances. There were good comedic moments as well, but perhaps the only disappoint of the acting was that it was limited. The cast never really had any scenes to actually do anything – they just preached.
The stage was well utilized as a means to convey this sort of performance. On stage right was a group of upper middle class citizens consisting of Osborn the MP, Edwina the lawyer, Will the accountant and Edwina’s maid. They meet to discuss ways to tackle crime, but end up pointing fingers as to whose fault crime is. On stage left, the criminals defended their actions via soliloquies – which felt awkward at first. In the end, two worlds were represented in two very different spaces. Whilst the group’s space was homely and warm (representing security), the criminals space was bare with only a dim spotlight showing their presence –representing uncertainty.
This was not a dramatic play. NMGC isn’t a play, or a piece of drama at all. It’s more of a collection of soliloquies. High energy, teary eyed, shouting to the roof soliloquies. There were over nine of these speeches. Over nine. That’s nine too many. Plays have structure (a beginning, middle and an end). They build towards the high energy, teary eyed high point of dramatic tension. To stage a production that is basically nine orgasms but no fun of the actual sex gets old. In fact, the best part of a play is the build up to that dramatic high point right before catharsis. Now theatre of the absurd challenges this structure, but one must understand the conventions that one is breaking. Just a note though, Pintard’s stuff isn’t absurdist. I understand that this is how Pintard stages his stuff, but let’s be honest; he can’t take his productions anywhere else in the world and get good reviews, so I’m not cutting him any slack here.
There was no overarching story. Every character that came on stage had their own story about how they got caught up in violence, but none of them were connected to each other or the group’s story. It created this open mic night sort of atmosphere. This left me wanting more. I wanted to know more about these characters and just how crime really impacted their lives before the tension filled speeches hit my ears.
Production wise, Pintard should not have used microphones. Part of the theatre process for an actor is to project him/herself to the audience. Microphones make actors lazy on stage. It also causes the audience unneeded hearing problems. For instance, two soliloquies both had shouting performances. Shouting into the microphone equaled loss of hearing on my part and disturbed my enjoyment of the piece.
Whenever the four member group had a scene, lights came up. When the other members of the cast had to deliver soliloquies, the very dim spotlight was used. This spotlight was so dim I couldn’t actually see the actor, so I found myself looking at other things and only returning my gaze to said actor once they started shouting. However, I can’t really hold this against them as this was their first performance at The Dundas.
The group itself was obsolete. They acted as mediators between the different characters soliloquies where their job was to bring the energy down. However, when Osborn and Willy started having shouting matches; it didn’t work out so well, thus failing. After an hour and a half I dreaded having to hear Edwina tell the two men to stop bickering or watch the maid clean the bookstand for the fiftieth time.
The production also got preachy – which you never want to do to your audience. Instead of showing, characters were telling and expositing. There was so much of it that I never want to hear that word again. Where’s Poitier when you need him? Oh there he is! Poitier give me some showing instead of telling! Ah, that’s better. Where was I?
Theatre is about characters in conflict. But what happens when only the conflict is brought to the stage and no build up is given? Does it work? I don’t think so. NMGC captures the tension, sorrow and anger of a violent country, but I only wish that it was actually a dramatic play. And that is where it falls short.