All entries for Friday 23 November 2007
November 23, 2007
With the terrific promotion that Edmond has had, I don't think any member of the audience was expecting anything less than a slick and professional student production. What the spectators ultimately ended up with was, in fact, much more: this captivating and invigorating journey into a troubled mind left me not only terrified and disorientated, but ultimately moved.
The play chronicles Edmond's escape from a boring life with a spouse that no longer interests him into a world of violence, racism and sexuality, dragging the audience through the frantic New York underworld. While the set-up of the man leaving his mundane existence to find self-fulfilment seems unoriginal, what he finds is never less than shocking. The winning aspect of the play is that what Edmond comes to term with is both disturbing and truthful, grounded firmly in reality by a high-quality cast: the ascension of homophobia and racism in the main character comes across not just as madness, but as a sickness shared by society, propagated by it's stifling rules that has immersed Edmond in confusion.
What the performance hinges upon is the nature of promenade theatre, where the audience follows the scenes in different parts of the room. What this means is that one moment you are looking at Edmond in a bar, then another scene may start up behind you and you find yourself staring straight at a pole dancer: although this means that I had poor visibility for some sections of the play, craning my neck over audience members, it was extremely effective in making the audience feel trapped in Edmond's warped world and helping us to understand him. He was not only our main character: he was our tour guide through hell.
While the main thread of the story, following him about as he meets new characters that he will either abuse or be abused by, starts to feel tired, the ending comes as an ingenious move by playwright Mamet, throwing the whole play into perspective and finally explaining the poster's tagline: every fear hides a wish. Not only bringing the story's fable-like nature to a conclusion, it also adequately serves as a description of the play itself: no matter how scared or shocked, you will want to see this performance again.
It has been three years since Michael Moore's last film, Fahrenheit 9/11, failed to both impress me and stop Bush getting re-elected. Three years for him to bow his baseball-capped head in despair. It would be understandable to presume that after taking on the most powerful government administration in the world, the poor left-wing fatman we all loved in Bowling for Columbine felt he had nowhere left to go and no subject to explore that would feel as important. Thankfully, however, with a central theme that seems less vital, Moore has made a film that is not only more coherent and better constructed, but, most importantly, feels more focused.
Rather than feeling rushed and clumsy (admittedly, Moore had an important deadline to keep on Fahrenheit: the presidential elections), it would seem that the world's most successful documentarian took his time with Sicko, interviewing dozens of citizens that have suffered from America's lamentable healthcare system. Indeed, we are shown so many cases of medical injustice that Moore himself does not appear for the first 45 minutes of the film, leaving the families to speak for themselves. As expected, some of the cases are horrific and profoundly moving, and you feel Moore shifting into sentimental gear so often it's almost a relief once he appears on screen to inject a little of his trademark comedy into the proceedings. He is, of course, equally adept at transferring his audience's sadness into anger, and his exploration of the insurance companies and their policies truly hits the mark.
Sadly, other sections of the film come off as weak: the links made between the healthcare system and the government are fascinating but not enough time is spent on them- perhaps the issue of lobbying should be the subject of a whole other movie- and the stunt of bringing patients to Guantanamo Bay, so important in the promotion of the documentary, ends up bringing Moore nowhere in particular in terms of the development of his themes. It is also true that, as Europeans, our countries are shown as left-wing havens, models of healthcare perfection, and it is grating for us to witness how Moore eschews the complete truth in favour of one that serves his purpose.
Of course, the documentarian's reputation is such that one could only really expect a one-sided argument, and the approach of a polemic rather than a journalist. The important thing to remember is, his reputation is also of someone who deals in polemics extraordinarily well, and here he lives up to it. As far as I'm concerned, Michael Moore can raise his baseball-capped head up high again, and, hopefully, show more of it next year.