Not the Best Seat in the House

Not every play, even a great one, is meant to be experienced from afar. My expensive seat was like a nest on a very high tree (the balcony), with a side view of the stage. “Needles and Opium” would work better in a more intimate setting. Despite the imaginative stage setting (most of the action takes place in a revolving cube), the story is one of emotion and ideas and one feels too removed from it when perched high above the action.

It doesn’t help if latecomers stumble in the dark, can’t find their spot, sit on the stairs and few minutes later decide to shift into spare seats. The theatre going crowd that day seemed to be older. People brought cushions, back supports and loud whispers.

I don’t think that “Needles and Opium” works as well as a play as Lepage’s “The Blue Dragon”, but the virtuosity of the stage design and presentation fit perfectly with the subject matter. Jean Cocteau would have felt comfortable on that set. Not sure about Miles Davis or Juliette Greco.

If I sat on the main floor, close to the stage, and not behind very tall people, the play would have touched me more. It’s the constant struggle between economic survival and art: theatres have to sell tickets and choice of play may not always be made with a consideration of how the play feels from every seat in the house.

I noticed that there is a certain affluence to theatre goers – in the more established theatres. I wish there less division between established and small, independent theatre. Also less division among their respective audiences.

I also went this weekend to see “Philomena”. Of course Judi Dench is receiving her customary good reviews, and Steve Coogan supposedly has broken out of his comedic mode. No, Steve Coogan is still Steve, but in the best way – wound up, bitterly witty and snarky, built not to be happy. Somehow with all of that, he manages to be engaging. The movie is so-so, although the true story it’s based on merits telling. Mostly I went because I like Steve Coogan. “24 Hour Party People” where he portrays Tony Wilson, fits the Coogan vibe perfectly.

I really want to see the Doc Pomus documentary. It has Lou Reed reading Doc’s journals, must say something about Mort Schuman, his writing partner (who brought to stage Jacques Brel is Alive ans Well and Living in Paris). Then there are his songs. I didn’t realize he wrote “Little Sister” for Elvis. Such a great rockabilly song, written by a Jewish guy from New York. Somehow it fits.

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