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[Performance Analysis:] MARRY ME A LITTLE, Stage Door Theatre, London.

The set for this performance is certainly memorable for its efficient simplicity and naturalistic quality. It is abundant with the characters’ personal items and has a practical feel, allowing for a great amount of interactivity and hence dimension and liveliness. However, the set was not particularly used to its full potential — most memorably, the microwave not being powered, allowing for a unique sense of mime not implemented elsewhere in the performance, but most significantly, the repetitiveness of the set interactions we see. Interactions, whilst somewhat attractive in their mundaneness, representing the humdrum daily actions of the bored and lonely characters, are incomplete or illogical: making bagel sandwiches and food that are never eaten, applying makeup to an already made-up face, pouring drink after drink and rarely actually drinking from the glasses, etc. From the repetition of these actions comes also a lack of clarity in time of day: we are to deduce that the play starts on a Friday night, with their coming back home from outside, Shelley Rivers (playing Woman) in work attire, but beyond this, we know nothing of when exactly the action is taking place.

I find it strange also that we are to understand the set as both of the characters’ respective homes depicted simultaneously, yet the characters regularly interact with the very same theatrical properties, despite there being many others with which they could do so, and in the same way. It would be good to see the characters interact with their own, unique properties that share a performative symbolic space but that are clearly, markedly theirs and only ever interacted with by them, much like Man's (Markus Sodergrens) photograph was — the only prop utilised and addressed in such an intimate and personal way. Conversely, the characters did end up locked into certain remits of the stage, outlining in this way their respective symbolic territories. This could have been more effective if it was organised more deliberately, however, with the characters having clear and cogent reasons for remaining in these said areas. I did really enjoy that the characters were separate from one another. That they were in different physical spaces was clear from the very beginning, with the lack of interaction between them and their shared ignorance. However, this was equal parts effective and irritating, with the significance of this being underwhelming.

On a similar note, ambit of gaze is a major issue in this performance, with Sodergren addressing the audience directly when signing and Rivers staring into the void above their heads. This imbalance causes for both stylistic inconsistency and disruption in the modes of audience reception. With the songs being used as a storytelling device of sorts, presenting a direct-speech narrative in their lyrics, it is odd that only one character [Sodergren’s] should be approaching the audience, encroaching vaguely on their territory, sat at the edge of the stage, and addressing them individually, seeking eye contact. Perhaps this was an actor-led decision as opposed to a directorial (Robert McWhir) one, however.

When it comes to vocal performance, both Rivers and Sodergren have wonderful, melodic voices, and vibrato is achieved well, overall, but diction is a major concern for both — as is volume, particularly on higher notes. Whilst diction is the most significant issue for Sodergren, Rivers must train to have better strength behind her voice when achieving higher notes. Harmonies, unfortunately, are not achieved at all throughout the performance, with the exemption of the finale. Indeed, seeing the performers themselves not melding together in song, the lack of crossover between the characters is over-intensified, which is a shame, as it would be beneficial to see that the characters are united in this, at least — their ‘inner voices’, their sentiments and their nature, and their manners of expression intimately similar. A few notes lost for both performers, but a satisfactory vocal performance, overall. 

This remains one of Sondheim’s least impressive texts — admittedly a subjective response on my behalf — demanding an exaggerativeness to be fully engaging, one that we only glimpse in a few sequences — Sodergren’s ‘bang bang’s and Rivers's ‘stripping’ sequence, namely. I would certainly recommend further work on comedic timing and further intensity in physicality here to make the sassier or more idiosyncratic moments punchier. Characterisation takes second place to the focus on the vocals, leading to a certain genericism and lack of depth. 

“A watchable performance but lacking in originality, vigour and stylistic consistency.”


Additional Notes on This Performance [for the Requester of this Analysis]

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