Sunday, January 09, 2005

Disgusted After All

When Jerry Springer - The Opera ended on BBC2 last night I felt disgusted and very angry.
Nothing to do with the content of the show. I was furious because they ran the credits over the closing number. Two sets of credits, one for the theatre production and one for the television production company. Whoever was responsible for this should - as a line in the show puts it - be 'fucked up the ass with barbed wire.'

In fact it ended very abruptly without showing any curtain calls, rather as if someone had bought an E120 tape instead of an E180. There's no point recording a live performance unless you give the viewer an experience as close as possible to that of the theatre audience and that includes curtain calls and any encores. And you don't run the credit sequence until the audience are filing out of their seats.

When I was a kid and the BBC showed live theatre productions (and they were genuinely live in those days), they pretty much just stuck a camera in front of the proscenium arch and switched it on. Although rather boring by today's standards and without any close-ups, at least you were getting the same view of the show as someone in the stalls, albeit in black and white.
Incidentally, those live transmissions in the fifties usually featured lots of middle aged men staggering around the stage with their trousers round their ankles. (Known as the Whitehall Farces). So I grew up believing that heterosexuals were always at it like rabbits with other people's spouses. When my parents let a family friend stay overnight because he'd locked himself out and I met him on the landing wearing my father's pyjamas I was intrigued but not particularly surprised. I simply looked round to see if a vicar and a cleaning lady were going to enter stage left.

But back to Jerry. The other irritation was to have to endure a second verbal warning from Kirsty Wark before the start of the second act. And why Kirsty? Did they think we would pay more attention to her than the regular continuity announcer?
"Wasn't that Kirsty's voice? Fucking hell! It must be serious. Switch off, Mavis, and I'll go and make the cocoa."

Seen in context, there was nothing blasphemous about the second act and the overall theme of the piece was a highly moral one. You could even argue that was one of its weaknesses. But people who go looking for blasphemy will always find it. Religious extremists can't grasp subtleties, which is odd considering that most religions are so packed with reason-defying subtleties themselves.
Overall, it wasn't the greatest musical I've ever seen but it was one of the most exhilirating in its melding of opera and traditional musical theatre in an original way. And musical theatre has to keep renewing itself and exploring new territory to attract new generations who are immune to the charms of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

A most disappointing correction in The Guardian this week:
"The desperate housewives, of the television series of that name, may live in clapboard houses but almost certainly not in clapperboard houses."
Still, that 'almost' does leave a glimmer of hope. So much more pleasing to think of them living in clapperboard houses with clapper boys strategically placed in case they had a sudden urge for a quick take.


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