Monday, 16 May 2011


I was bombarded by emails and letters from the Sydney Theatre Company about it's current production, Baal, which we saw this evening. The work is an adaptation of the first play by Bertolt Brecht and the STC may well have been worried about audience reaction to the confronting nature of the production.

The STC provided this cautionary message;

Warning: This production contains adult themes, nudity, violence, simulated sex scenes, drug references and very coarse language. It is not recommended for people under the age of 18.

All that and the play runs just 70 minutes without interval. Well, violence could put me off but the rest was not likely to deter me. As it turns out the violence was comparatively tame given current cinematic practice. Similarly the other elements were not so shocking for the regular cinema and theatre goer.

The nudity was a different issue. You don't often see actors (males and females) wandering around the stage completely naked and several members of the audience gasped when the first naked man strolled on in his birthday suit without so much as a 'how do you do'. Before the performance I wondered whether I would be distracted - even leering - at the sight but it says something for the direction of the play that within moments I scarcely noticed the performers' nakedness.

As for the play itself...well, it was a bit of a dud really.

Baal is a supposedly charismatic performer (poet, singer, philospher) who attracts adulation from his fans (females and males). In return for this adulation Baal delivers abuse (sexual, mental and physical) to anyone he encounters. As portrayed here, Baal's performance skills seem a case of the Emperor has no clothes.

The opening moments seemed promising but from then on most of what followed was gobbledygook to me. The most interesting aspect of the remainder for me was the scene change in which the set collapsed on itself and the copious amounts of stage rain that fell throughout the second half.

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