Carmen Disruption – Simon Stephens

Carmen Disruption. Oh! Oh oh oh oh! I enjoyed this production so so much. I just had a damn good time.

I have it in my head (accurate or not) that Simon Stephens develops a lot of his work very collaboratively. And I think that may be how he, very deftly, wrote a play with a gigantic hole in it; left room for a missing character. And that missing character was the stage craft. How the company fills in that gap is what makes this production so much fun. I will see every revival I can get to just to witness each new group’s imagination with the text.

The majesty of this play in performance points up the need for a confident, creative production team, and underlines the absolute requirement to recruit an incredible set of actors. Which might be the nicest possible way I can say I thought the text was the weakest link. I think if I had read it without seeing it I would have struggled to understand why anyone would do it (this gave me some important and eye-opening information about my imagination (and its limitations :))! The structure is beautiful, but the words…the words are right, but they are not deep, or lovely, or satisfying. But I do think that may have been the point.

The text of the play is five fragmented monologues that intersect. There is no dialogue. There are single lines that intercut, but there is no dialogue. It’s awesome. However, there were physical interactions in this production that inferred dialogue. There is a chorus in both the operatic and Greek sense. The entire play is masturbatory. There is an act of actual masturbation, but mostly there is a non-erotic, non-romantic, preening, egotistical arc for every character. It is so modern it hurts.  It resonated deeply with my entire range of emotions about contemporary life, and I wonder if it will stand up to even five years of aging.

The whole experience gave me the sense of looking at an exceptional hologram of a beautiful flower. It is such a marvel when you are seeing it, but once it’s gone you feel worse than if you had the flower and it died, because clever as the hologram was, it was never real. I felt like everything about the play deserved and rewarded every minute I spent in that theatre, yet I was also left with a dirty, furtive emptiness, which I think is a feather in the cap of all involved.

Cast: 5  3F 2 M and Chorus – In the London run the chorus was 1F. Run Time: 80-85 minutes. Synopsis: 5 intersecting monologues by the principles in the Bizet’s Carmen, updated to modern London.

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