I’ve been known to leave concerts at interval, and opera too. But I’ve never done a half-show at the ballet and not at the theatre.
There is, however, a first time for everything, and on Tuesday night I wandered out of the STC’s Optimism (Tom Wright after Voltaire’s Candide) at the point where they flashed the sign “Drinks at the bar”. It wasn’t awful so much as lame – the “confection” (Wright’s word) was too reminiscent of an undergraduate revue, and just as uneven. Someone needs to buy a candy thermometer.
The very best moments (Abigail’s monologue, for example) tended to be those that stayed closest to Voltaire. Mixed in was a staggering variety of songs, a gentle kind of standup comedy and strange jokes, like the one about underwear fitting like a glove. Perhaps my heart wasn’t in it, but for something that was meant to be funny, I wasn’t able to manage much more than a wry smile at most of the silliness.
The first disconcerting thing was Barry Otto, projecting as a fine actor does, but miked. Too loud! And why does anyone need microphones in the SOH Drama Theatre anyway? Because of the singing, it turned out, and an often intrusive underscore. It probably didn't help that I was down front and to one side, too close to a speaker stack for comfort and not enjoying the forward-facing spotlights and industrial fans all that much either. For a romp – which is what I think its creators and performers were aiming for – it was often too “in your face”, literally.
And so I left Candide and his companions in Surinam with the gurgling slave. (That was actually quite impressive: Michael Hamish singing “I could be happy” at half tempo and sounding for all the world like he had mud in his throat.) I figured the second half was going to be much the same as the first, and – pace Dr Pangloss – I couldn’t muster any optimism.
I went to buy a program, as is my wont, and was startled to find the price had gone up to $12. I winced and handed over another gold coin. I winced again when I got home and realised that I had in fact purchased a set of discounted program vouchers with my subscription.