Saturday, February 14, 2009

Close Encounters

I love intimate theatre. Shows at Gammage do less for me than the ultra-low-cost production of Assassins I saw at the now-defunct Is What It Is Theatre a few years back.

So the past few weeks have been a field day for me: we saw Spring Awakening at the Lyric Hammersmith on January 31, and tonight we just got back from NewsRevue, a sketch comedy show performed to a house only twice the size of our flat's lounge.

Spring Awakening was exquisite. Both in writing and performance, it is nothing short of a masterpiece, and we got to see it from the stage (part of the set design is space for around 20 people to watch the show on stage). It made the experience incredibly rich, detailed, and intense: we saw emotional, explosive scenes as though they were filmed; we saw Frühlingserwachen (Spring Awakening, the musical is based on a 19th century German play) carefully lettered across the front edge of the stage, visible only to those on stage; and when one of the actors was not in the action, he would take the seat next to mine so that I could smell his hair gel.

This evening, for Valentine's Day we went to NewsRevue, a perpetually-changing sketch comedy show about current events and supposedly the longest-running live show in the world. It was a great time in an unexpectedly small venue, full of high-energy songs and is-that-too-far? comedy. They made fun of just about everyone, and if the sketches were hit and miss, they went by quick enough for me not to mind, and again, I was close enough to smell the unpleasant old-blanket smell of one prop.

Of all the questionable jokes of the night, by far the most startling thing was their song about Israel's recent invasion of Gaza and their ensuing disregard for the international community and human rights. The United Kingdom joins the US in sharing a 'special relationship' with Israel, which amounts to giving Israel a diplomatic blank check, but many commentators (and myself as well, if my opinion is worth anything) think that we'd actually be a better friend to Israel if we kept our objectivity and let them know if we thought they were making a bad decision. In the government and the media it is all but a heresy to suggest that Israel may be capable of doing wrong, and I think it's a huge step forward to discuss — and poke fun at — Israel the way we do all other nations.

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