Hey! I pushed through yet another barrier last night; I attended a show at the Citadel for the first time in 11 years… and I managed to fly in under the radar. Now, I’m not entirely sure that this is a good thing… only one person in the place who wasn’t expecting me to be there actually recognized me. There were a fair number of the crew that I used to work with on hand, plus board members, with artists and folks from other arts organizations… and I managed to move through them undetected. My shyness over rode and took control of the situation; I did not try to make myself known. It should be noted that I did agree to go to the reception afterwards. Until last night, I really had no idea how much my physical appearance has changed… and not just in the last year. I also mean in the last 10 years. This was an opening night with a full house; the attendance at the post show reception was significantly under attended. This was something I found very surprising… until we discovered that the Citadel management has recently changed policy and charge for drinks at the reception. The finger food is still free, and seems to be quite good (not that I had any!), but they no longer provide that free glass of questionable quality wine post performance. Why would anyone pay the premium to attend opening night, now? As a cost cutting measure, I question its validity. As a way to address the liability question (serving drinks without any sort of restriction and therefore, as the host, being culpable for audience drunkenness), well, okay, I’ll accept that. I’d be curious to know what the reason for the change is.

The show we were treated to was Ronnie Burkett’s new piece, ‘Billy Twinkle; Requiem for a Golden Boy’.

It will get better. Won’t it?

I was disappointed. Last evening’s performance was not his best work. The script doesn’t live up to Ronnie’s previous works, although the storyline and the concept seem solid enough. His work with the hand puppet (vs. his masterful manipulation of the marionettes) leaves a great deal to be desired. And his voices… the range, the tonal quality, the timbre all seemed too close to each other, with sporadic, unsustained exceptions. There was a frenetic quality to the interactions with the hand puppet that just didn’t feel right… a great deal of the significance of the language and the interaction was lost. I’m sure that now that opening night is over, he will slow it down, find the best pacing for those very intense scenes, and settle into his normal, seemingly casual rhythms of presentation. We saw a glimpse of that usual Ronnie when he missed a prop clearance, and wove the error back into his banter… now that was some of the Burkett magic that I was looking for.

From a scripting point of view, there are some things that need rewriting… which I’m sure he’ll find as he goes along. There are a lot of sexuality references which advance the story; there are too many overtly sexual references which don’t. He either needs more of the puppet show-within-the-puppet show (he does a brilliant stripper, a drunken socialite, a moment with a bear on roller-skates and a bitter-sweet bit with an old man and balloon) or he needs less. The Juliet needs more work… it seems confused, unfocused, and the presentation, the delivery of Shakespeare’s language was totally inadequate for that moment, and those rants at the beginning of the piece… which brings me to my final point. Ronnie Burkett is an exceptional puppeteer, and a wonderful raconteur, which, when put together with a well deployed script, make for an astonishing evening of theatre. Unfortunately, Ronnie Burkett is not an actor.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.