Written on: 03/03/2008 by torpedogolf (1 review written)
In my view, whether Judy Craymer realizes it or not, she has, in a way, bested Wagner, and in so doing, has converted one form of psychic energy (catharsis) into another, pure joy, by juxtaposing outrageous comedy with the joyful music of ABBA
Here is an ethical and moral thought experiment for all you budding Mamma Mia philosophers out there. Imagine that you have just seen an emergency news broadcast detailing the certain obliteration of Earth by an unstoppable asteroid in just two short hours. Now imagine also that due to the strict no mobile phone policy in the Prince of Wales theatre, everyone but the cast has received the ominous news. Do you tell the cast and give them a chance to say their prayers, or do you keep them blissfully ignorant of their impending doom? I vote for blissful ignorance, a noble lie (sin of omission if you will). I will explain the philosophical justification for my decision in the context of the very special February 29th, 2008 London performance.
Firstly, what good could possibly come from telling the cast of their fate? I know that they are very talented, but lets face it, like the difference between a genuine smile and a politicias grin, no actor or group of actors is good enough to fake their own enjoyment of this show so convincingly. Secondly, What are the chances that both the cast and audience will collectively ever experience greater joy, not escapism, but the pure joy that should be the inevitable residue of sharing such an extraordinary performance?
If politicians really wanted to ensure certain re-election, they would use Lottery funds to subsidize Mamma Mia to mesmerize the population into temporarily forgetting about all the crumbling infrastructure in this country, making it not just an entertaining night out but rather a national, and necessary, mental health treasure/break.
Still basking in the bittersweet afterglow of Lucy Harriss final performance as Donna, I actually forgave the Ministry Of Transport (MOT) for their utterly hopeless, myopic, third world-style road works, as I made the inevitable, poorly-marked, detour around the never-ending piecemeal construction on the M11-M25 junction.
Indeed, even the simple wiggling of Tanyas (Jane Gurnetts) foot (never the same way twice), on the bed where she fakes an ankle injury to avoid having to suck or blow an inflatable mattress, alone, would have made my detour more than worth it.
Hannah Robertson in my view, has a very unique talent that should, if there is any justice in show business, allow her to name her poison when selecting any role worthy of her gifts. The combination of her exquisite beauty, grace and musicality tempted me to assert that she has a Movie Star quality about her, but given the current state of affairs in Hollywood, I realize it could be taken, justifiably so, as an insult. Thus, I am now, officially, on the record, placing Hannah into my rarified Pantheon of Mamma Mia Irreplaceables.
I will miss Bill Austins (Paul Hawkyards) rapport with Sophie; he brings a great deal of quality and believability to his role.
Unlike the self-indulgent and pathologically narcissistic Hollywood pretty boys personified in Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise or Brad Pratt and Tom Loose ' as my son refers to them, Paul Shelford (Sky) much like Hannah (Sophie), projects a totally sincere, likable and believable character that must be, like Lucys and Hannahs characters, on some level, a partial extension of himself. He will be sorely missed, as I fear he too, will be enshrined in the Mamma Mia Pantheon. I certainly will not be holding my breath awaiting his worthy replacement.
The comic timing of Jane Gurnett (Tanya) and Joanna Monro (Rosie), during Chiquetita was a masterpiece of the most densely packed hilarity I have ever seen, and sadly fear, ever will see, again. It stands alone, like a kind-of banana bullfight Mona Lisa of comic genius, that will be debated for centuries to come, with no clear definitive theory ever emerging to fully explain it. It may just be that the best any of us can do is simply gaze in wonderment, and not even try to explain why or how it affects us so deeply.
Jane Gurnett Does Your Mother Know ' scene was so outrageously funny, I thought my wife was going to hyperventilate. May I suggest to the theatre that they change their fake ' warning about nervous dispositions and white LYCRA and replace it with a real medical warning about Jane and install fully functioning drop-down oxygen masks! A friend of ours, who came to the performance, said her eyes were so full of tears from laughing at Chiquetita, she missed half of Dancing Queen.
Staying with the Greek theme for a moment, I truly believe that Mamma Mia is fundamentally misunderstood. I submit that it is not the light-hearted romp that so many believe it to be, but rather a kind of modified Wagnerian Total Art ' (Gesamtkunstwerk) experience, incognito.
In my view, whether Judy Craymer realizes it or not, she has, in a way, bested Wagner, and in so doing, has converted one form of psychic energy (catharsis) into another, pure joy, by juxtaposing outrageous comedy with the joyful music of ABBA with the potential tragedy of Sophie (Hannah Robertson) marrying too young and then narrowly averting the potential disaster of her youthful impulsivity at the 11th hour. Mamma Mia goes well beyond mere entertainment, which is why, like the Greek classics, it will live forever in the hearts of those who are lucky enough to internalize its deeper meaning.
I normally dont like to reveal too much emotion in my reviews, but here I feel it is both necessary and instructive. Somewhat caught off guard by my own reaction, I kept telling myself, almost embarrassed, get a grip Tim, its just a show, and a comedy nonetheless of course, my wife blubbering next to me didn't help my best efforts at stoicism. So why did I feel as if I had been gutted during the curtain call? Why such a strong sense of loss?
Well, to put it bluntly, Lucy occupies her own unique category, and also still, in my view, partly because of her uniqueness, is not fully cognizant of the true depth of her powers. In some ways I suppose this is a good thing for the quality of her last performance, like the surgeon who is so focused on cutting, that he hasnt the time to speculate on the consequences of failure for the patients friends and family, but for me, it serves as very little consolation, and in fact, only seemed to deepen my sense of loss.
It is now my firm belief that even after all the glowing words I have written about Lucy, I didnt even scratch the surface of her abundant talent.
Now I know that you skeptics out there will say, Come on Winey! how many times can you eat crow? You are a bigger flip flopper than the infamous Senator John Kerry, who unceremoniously lost the last US Presidential election in a landslide. I can assure you that there is no crow on this menu. I have not forgotten my earlier reviews, but have had, what I can only call, an epiphany after discovering the deeper message of Mamma Mia, exemplified by the transition from catharsis to Joy, which Lucy (to my chagrin) instinctively discovered long ago, and in so doing, literally became Donna. The foundation of all great art is truth. And the truthof Donna cannot be arrived at through scholarship, only by instinct. I deeply regret not fully appreciating the full weight of Lucys instinctive discovery much earlier, but like so many things worth treasuring, we often discover, tragically, their true value only after they are nearly, or completely, gone.
To fully grasp the magnitude of my loss, the reader could combine everything I ever wrote about Lucy, multiply it by a thousand, raise that number to the power of 100, and then, like imagining an infinity of infinities, give up trying, and simply curse yourself until a real meteor does eventually strike you as just punishment for not having the good sense to fully appreciate her. Alternatively, you could reflect on my emotions during Lucys final curtain call. I felt as if it were the inevitable, end of an era, painfully and irretrievably, Slipping Through My Fingers. Lucy (Donna), Hanna (Sophie) and Jane (Tanya) clearly have gone far beyond the call of duty in their roles, and in so doing, have given me and my family many priceless memories that we will treasure always; in fact, had a real meteor actually struck me during Lucys final performance, I would most assuredly have died as happy as any man ever did.
God bless this cast, and in particular, Lucy Harris, for generously radiating so much joy to so many, in this all too weary world. They say that grief is the price of love, and so I doubt we will ever completely stop grieving over the loss of this one-off Donna. With our deepest, heartfelt gratitude.