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Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

I was in Newfoundland in 2016. It’s a lovely place and, surprisingly, just over four hours from London by air. In the days of refuelling on transatlantic flights, its airport at Gander was well used; not much since, though it still has a huge capacity. The town isn’t a Newfoundland highlight. I drove through it twice. Without stopping. If I’d known its people had shown so much humanity in a world wrought with anger and hate on 9/11, I’d have probably stopped to pay my own tribute. But I didn’t.

It became the destination for 38 planes containing 7000 passengers, diverted after the attacks. At first they stayed aboard, expecting to move on to their original destinations shortly. When it became clear this was more than a short stop, they disembarked. The population of Gander, not much more than the total of stranded passengers, mobilised to provide shelter, food, clothing, phones, eventually inviting them into their homes, virtually adopting them. Relationships developed, but five days later they were waving goodbye.

It was the 10th anniversary, when residents and passengers were reunited, that gave the writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein the idea to tell their story. They interviewed both locals and the once stranded and created this extraordinary musical telling some of their stories. You might wonder why the musical style seems Irish folk, think Once, but I remember hearing this sound on my travels. Many Newfoundlanders are of Irish descent, the province only joined Canada after the second world war, and it is unlike any other part of Canada. What’s surprising is how earnest the show isn’t, and how funny it is. Though it’s often moving, I didn’t find it too sentimental; in fact I would say its one of the most exhilarating, uplifting shows I’ve seen.

A very simple staging, with some trees representing the island and chairs to create every location, leave the twelve actors to tell the stories of the many more they play unencumbered. The music hardly stops and there’s great pace and energy to Christopher Ashley and Kelly Devine’s staging. It’s breathless, grabbing you quickly and never letting go for 100 unbroken minutes. It struck me that now was a good time to see it here, to remind us that there is human kindness in this divided, angry world.

A joyful experience born of tragic events. Very much a musical for our times.

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The space is superbly theatrical. A large rectangular room with picture windows at both ends, restaurant booth seating on three sides & a bar on the fourth and a long elevated corridor on one side overlooking the main space, which contains an oval platform surrounded by tables and chairs. We’re in Windows on the World, a restaurant at the top the World Trade Centre, another one of Miriam Buether’s extraordinary designs and the most comfortable place I’ve ever seen ‘site-specific’ theatre!

A large number of ‘playlets’ take place (sequentially not concurrently!) on the platform, on tables, in booths, in the elevated corridor and on the floor. There’s a fair bit of ‘dance / movement’ between scenes (and sometimes part of them) with fine choreography from Scott Ambler.  There’s a superb cast of 13 who play many more roles than that. In conception and execution, it’s all wonderfully theatrical. The trouble is the material…..

……..I was expecting interesting and objective responses to 9/11 from many perspectives, but what I got were some rather slight sketches, few of which said much on their own, let alone together. Regular visits to the annual meetings of 9/11 widows (backwards in time) provides the only link, but not enough was made of this clever device. Many were monologues whose dramatic inertness was amplified by the theatricality of the space and staging. It didn’t educate or enlighten me, it didn’t illuminate anything and it didn’t really entertain me.

I suspect the multiplicity of writers doesn’t help; six more than there are actors (look what three did for Greenland!), but the key issue for me is that it just isn’t bold enough. It seems to be hinting at and skirting over issues rather than tackling them head on. I admire the ambition, but the rewards are limited.

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The space is superbly theatrical. A large rectangular room with picture windows at both ends, restaurant booth seating on three sides & a bar on the fourth and a long elevated corridor on one side overlooking the main space, which contains an oval platform surrounded by tables and chairs. We’re in Windows on the World, a restaurant at the top the World Trade Centre, another one of Miriam Buether’s extraordinary designs and the most comfortable place I’ve ever seen ‘site-specific’ theatre!

A large number of ‘playlets’ take place (sequentially not concurrently!) on the platform, on tables, in booths, in the elevated corridor and on the floor. There’s a fair bit of ‘dance / movement’ between scenes (and sometimes part of them) with fine choreography from Scott Ambler. There’s a superb cast of 13 who play many more roles than that. In conception and execution, it’s all wonderfully theatrical. The trouble is the material…..

……..I was expecting interesting and objective responses to 9/11 from many perspectives, but what I got were some rather slight sketches, few of which said much on their own, let alone together. Regular visits to the annual meetings of 9/11 widows (backwards in time) provides the only link, but not enough was made of this clever device. Many were monologues whose dramatic inertness was amplified by the theatricality of the space and staging. It didn’t educate or enlighten me, it didn’t illuminate anything and it didn’t really entertain me.

I suspect the multiplicity of writers doesn’t help; six more than there are actors (look what three did for Greenland!), but the key issue for me is that it just isn’t bold enough. It seems to be hinting at and skirting over issues rather than tackling them head on. I admire the ambition, but the rewards are limited.

Read Full Post »