Reviews – We, The People, The Globe (and our work here is done…)

Monday 10 September 2007

… and the West End Whingers can return to their own planets.

For the lost art of theatre reviewing seems to be once more in the ascendant and The Globe’s latest play We, The People by Eric Schlosser should be celebrated for single-handedly persuading the critics to tell it like it is:

Lyn Gardner in The Guardian (we always know she had it in her):
Eric Schlosser is a journalist, best known for his book Fast Food Nation. It is unlikely that he will ever become known as a playwright, however, because his account of the making of the American constitution is the dullest play of the year. Perhaps Westenra knew things weren’t going well when she chose to liven the action up in the opening moments of the play with a couple of instances of clumsy spectacle. First there’s the noisy firing of a cannon and some unconvincing stage fighting to represent the crushing of Shays’ rebellion in Massachusetts, emblematic of the crisis point that the new Republic had reached. Then there’s the brief, entirely gratuitous appearance among the groundlings of a real horse. The rest is endless blether, and it’s difficult not to share the frustration of the delegates as proceedings at the 1787 Philadelphia Convention drag on interminably, with endless adjournments and setbacks punctuated by occasional domestic scenes in taverns or bedchambers. *****

Sam Marlowe in The Times:
The first-night audience for Eric Schlosser’s new play about the drafting of the US Constitution was the smallest I’ve seen at the Globe; postinterval it was smaller still. Hardly surprising, given that We The People is so thoroughly inert. Schlosser, better known as a journalist and the author of Fast Food Nation, displays little awareness of the very different demands of drama. His play, which draws heavily on historical documents, is dry in the extreme, crammed with stilted polemic and peopled by characters so ill-defined that it’s often tricky to tell who is who. Charlotte Westenra’s tedious production rivals the oak structure of the Globe itself for woodenness. *****

Michael Coveney on
If only the cannon had set fire to the new Globe as it did, long ago, to the old. If only Benjie had blown himself up with his chemistry set, or George fallen off his horse (or the horse delivered an impromptu steaming message to the groundlings). For these episodes are followed by hours of throat-clearing, paper shuffling and plonking of elbows on green baize tables that would try the patience of the most dedicated box-ticking pedant. The activity of the officious, interfering Globe ushers in their Lenten mauve tunics became rivetingly interesting in comparison. *****

Sarah Hemming in the FT (oh, Shutters, why weren’t you there?):
In practice it translates into something like a local council meeting conducted in period costume. It’s good to identify with the characters on stage, but not when the person who strikes a chord is George Washington refusing a drink for fear of falling asleep during proceedings. To be fair, Schlosser has distilled 16 weeks of close argument into 2¾ hours, but even so, and even given the significance of the material, as drama the piece proves almost as inert as Alexander Hamilton’s wig.

The West End Whingers would like to thank the following people:

  • Eric Schlosser for teaching us that a turkey is not just for Thanksgiving.
  • Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe, Dominic Dromgoole , for turning a blind eye to the complete lack of dramatic potential in the script.
  • Director Charlotte Westenra for sticking with it through thick and through thin.
  • Our new researcher (yes, we’ve gotten very grand of late. And lazy.) Josh for bringing it all to our attention.
  • Phil for his amazing prescience in saying “no” when Andrew proposed getting tickets for it because it “sounded interesting”.
  • Gardner, Marlowe, Coveney and Hemming for “getting it” (although we respectfully request that Gardner, Marlowe and Coveney each justify the one star they awarded. Did Schlosser spell his name right at the top of the script?).

7 Responses to “Reviews – We, The People, The Globe (and our work here is done…)”

  1. Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!


  2. I take it back. I’m not sure it’s fair to ask anyone to put themselves through that voluntarily.

    But the fact that such a production exists (although not for long by the sound of it) should spur the Whingers on to further endeavours in an attempt to put the fear of god into anyone considering staging such a production.

  3. “oh, Shutters, why weren’t you there?” – because I’d done everything else at the Globe this season, so it was Sarah’s turn. Also, if you had the choice between a verbatim piece on the American constitution at the Globe and Stockard Channing in Clifford Odets at the Almeida, which would you choose? 🙂

  4. TimW Says:

    I saw this last week. It was a dry history re-enactment with little drama. I didn’t mind much because I quite like history but they can do better at the Globe.
    I remember thinking that if they’d got people who can do verbatim work properly (maybe Richard Norton-Taylor, Max Stafford-Clark or possibly David Hare) then they could have made something good out of the material.

  5. @ viewfromthestalls – When you said “Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Please!” we thought you meant back to our own planet, but apparently you meant to see We, The People. I’m afraid wild horses wouldn’t drag us there, let alone the poor lone nag that apparently walks through the groundlings in an attempt to inject some drama into it.

    @ TimW – It’s a canny notion to adopt the verbatim theatre approach but I believe many of those involved are unobtainable for comment due to being dead. And presumably now spinning in their graves.

  6. @ Shutters – always thinking of yourself!

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