Thursday, February 25, 2021

THE WEDDING (Gecko Theatre/Northern Stage/Nottingham Playhouse)**


By Cal


Available until: 27th February 2021

This play opens with a man putting on a wedding dress. Nobody behaves as though it’s odd – and that’s wonderful. It’s how it should be. I was looking forward to getting to know this character and watching his marriage.

But that didn’t really happen. Individuality is not really what this play is about.

We see various people putting on a wedding dress. They go through various ritualistic-looking procedures. There is a lot of movement and dancing. There is vocalisation, though even if I turn the volume up to full, the voices are still very quiet. They seem to be speaking in a foreign language, in any case. I caught a few words which I understood as they were German words and I think there was some Italian later, but I couldn’t hear the complete sentences.

The website says The Wedding is inspired by the complexities of human nature and the idea of being married to society, but I’m not sure I’d have realised that on my own.

I think I understand what they mean in a very vague way. I think the way the characters enter, sliding down a chute onto the stage, symbolised birth, particularly as they landed in a pile of toys. They then put on their wedding dress, which is a symbol for life. When several men entered and found the man in his wedding dress, I think they might have noticed he looked different and not understood that at first – they seemed to be pushing him around and laughing at him – but then they seemed to realise that fundamentally, he was one of them even if he was wearing a dress and soon they were dancing in unison.

It’s lovely and I’m sure a lot of children go through this. The moment of uncertainty, followed by acceptance. Though it doesn’t happen to everyone.

The characters were clearly all living the same sort of life. They were dressed the same, apart from the ones in wedding dresses. They all did the same things. When one person started doing something, the others joined in. The ones in wedding dresses usually are accepted, but they look different so they have to work harder. I think the characters probably grow up as they go through the play. There are scenes that could take place at school and work.

The play does seem to reflect society. Rules are made; trends and expectations are set in place. The trends are not usually rules, but they might as well be considering the reaction you get if you don’t follow the trend. Expectations are not usually rules either, but anyone who doesn’t live up to expectations could end up in trouble just for being the one who’s different. The one who’s left out. The one who’s sacrificed.

Anyone who does not follow the crowd is not part of the group so most people do follow, even if, inside, they wish they could break free and do their own thing.

There is a fair amount of music in this play, including a bit of opera. It’s very varied and it’s lovely. There’s also a lot of movement in this play and it’s striking and very interesting to watch. It’s almost creepy at first, watching people doing exactly the same thing with no variation, yet that’s what many people do every day. We don’t usually all do it in unison, but we still choose to do the same things. Perhaps if more people did do it in unison, we would start to question if conforming wasn’t actually, in some ways, weirder than doing things in our own way.

There are limits to non-conformity, of course. But that doesn’t mean the limits can’t be broader.

The people in this play do give the impression of being happy. It’s difficult to be sure when we don’t really understand what they’re saying, but perhaps even if we could understand, they would still seem happy. Because it’s not just doing the same as everyone else which leads to acceptance. You have to be happy about it; to enjoy the things we’ve been told we ought to enjoy.

But there is one way in which the play seems very much in favour of being part of the group. Watching the play, I wasn’t part of things. I didn’t really know what was going on. I could take a good guess, but it was very difficult to be sure. That’s what it’s like being an outsider. It’s not just about not being allowed into the group; if you were able to watch the group up close, as an audience has the opportunity to do, you wouldn’t necessarily understand everything that goes on because only members can understand. Membership isn’t just about belonging; it’s about being given the tools to understand.

My favourite part involved a suitcase. The audience laughed, which is fine, but I thought it was really lovely. I don’t think being different is necessarily funny, but it can be very endearing.

The Wedding is interesting and it’s certainly thought-provoking, but the trouble with being shut out of the meaning of the play is that it becomes admirable rather than engaging. I appreciated the performance on an intellectual level and the performers (whose names I don’t know so I can’t credit them) are clearly extremely skilful, but I didn’t really feel emotionally engaged.

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