I recently saw Samuel Beckett’s great short play Krapp’s Last Tape with John Hurt at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. It was a production from the Gate Theatre in Dublin. Hurt was so precise that his performance could balance on the tip of a pin. He respected the silence and made the audience respect it too. This production didn’t reach out to the audience. It brought the audience into it. It was my kind of theatre.
But enough about the production. I want to talk about the Talkback. Beckett might not reach out to his audience, but the Center Theatre Group certainly does.
As soon as my ticket was scanned, I realized I had entered a way too happy carnival. In the lobby, you could record and listen to your own audio recordings. There were tables and chairs and a wall of Irish writers in an area called Sam’s Pub. It was ghastly.
Still, I felt celebratory about seeing a Beckett play. I settled into the lobby with a plastic cup of champagne and noticed a flat screen with a twitter feed on it. I fought the urge to not to read the changing screen containing absolutely nothing.
Suddenly, I heard a theatre guy all in black announcing to some older patrons that there will be a Talkback in the lobby after the performance.
It’s only fifty-five minutes, and it’s so absurd, so you can talk about it in the lobby after the show. The bar will be open.
I listened as he said it again and again as he went from group to group. The part about the bar being opened intrigued me.
So the play happened. I won’t go into the superlatives. After a quick trip to the ladies room (champagne, glorious champagne) and a hand wash in the Ladies trough (if you’ve been to the Ladies Room of the Kirk Douglas, you know what I mean), I was back in the lobby just in time for the beginning of the Talkback.
It was moderated by a twenty-something theatre girl all in black who obviously had been given a list of talking points. Whenever there was a silence she added a new point. My favorite was when she pointed out that John Hurt looked like an older Beckett. Uh-huh.
I left. I had to go. As I walked away, I went to my negative place. Oh God, what horror, what awful terrible horror. The Talkback.
When did theatre become a democracy? When did it become okay for the audience to discuss their feelings? This is Beckett, not therapy. Just because you have an opinion, madam, doesn’t mean you have express it. Is there any place these days without a comment field?
I don’t care how my plays make you feel. Okay, I do a little. I like it when folks laugh and clap and give me money. I don’t want to hear how my play relates to your life. That’s between you and the play. When the play’s over, clap and leave. Thank you, good night.