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We Will Rock You

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Recently, I went to see a production of We Will Rock You, a musical written by Queen, at The Dominion theatre, London. The section I felt made the strongest impression was the section in which the “Bohemians” are introduced. There were a number of elements which made it successful theatre. I am going to analyse and evaluate a selection of them: Individual performances, lighting, staging, themes and setting/references to popular culture. In my own opinion, and according to the audience’s reaction, I feel that the performance of Scaramouche was the strongest in the production.

The part was well written and her dialogue humorous; however, it was the unique way in which she delivered them that made such an impact. Her tone was sarcastic and mocking, and it was clear that she was much wittier and more intelligent than Galileo Figaro, the male lead, was. However her body language was quite closed and she tended to look down a lot, indicating insecurity and self-doubt. This was highlighted in the scenes with the “Bohemians”, because in contrast, their body language was much more confrontational and confident.

The contrast between her speech and her body language allowed her to connect with the audience on a number or levels, both entertaining them and provoking sympathy and empathy. This invested their emotions in the play, therefore provoking a greater audience response. The lighting during the Bohemians’ section was used to great effect. At the beginning, when it is just Meatloaf and Britney Spears on stage, it was quite low to underline the desolate barren setting they were in. It also contrasted with the brighter lighting in the scenes with the Ga Ga Girls.

This was to alert the audience to the fact that they were outcasts, in exile from the main society on Planet Mall, presented earlier in the production. It also gave the scene a more intimate feel, which helped as we were getting to know the characters. When Heartbreak Hotel, the Bohemian headquarters in the disused railways station, came into view, it was much more brightly lit, which helped it make a greater impact on the audience. This made the new setting have more impact, but the constant changes in lighting also prevented the onset of monotony and audience boredom.

This kept them more engaged in the story and increased their response. The staging was integral in creating an audience response, in the bohemians section. This was because the action on stage was balanced, with an equal amount going on, on both sides most of the time. This helped make all parts of the audience in all the different seats feel included. Furthermore, members of the cast often ventured out the furthest parts of the stage, something I especially appreciated sitting on the far left. They also made eye contact with the audience, and sometimes even used direct address, which had the same effect.

The position of the Bohemians on stage was structured in such a way that it did not appear so. You could still see all of them but their arrangement did not seem as ordered and controlled as the Ga Ga Girls and the Globalsoft people, who were all in straight lines. They were also on different levels, this all worked to create an informal and more inviting atmosphere, and draw the audience into the story, and sympathise with their plight. There were two main themes in the Bohemians section, which engaged the audience on different levels. Firstly, that of individuality and how large, faceless multinational corporations try to suppress it.

The bohemians represented humanity’s last attempt in the struggle against such things. The underlying themes engaged the audience’s intellect, making them take it more seriously, and gave the whole play more importance and meaning. When you saw the Bohemians living in the ruined dilapidated setting of Heartbreak Hotel, it emphasised the cruel and ruthless nature of Globalsoft. This sent out a very moral message because the audience is supposed to glean from this that individuality and eccentricity equals ‘good’ and big businesses equals ‘bad’.

The whole play was also specifically critical of manufactured music, which is extremely relevant today with the recent popularity of programs such as “Pop Idol. This allowed the audience to relate it to issues in their own lives, and therefore increased their interest. The second theme is that of finding a group of friends and the feeling of camaraderie and belonging. Scaramouche was an outcast and this was mainly represented in her clothes, which were black and ragged, as opposed to the clean white synthetic look of the Ga Ga Girls.

When she arrived at Heartbreak Hotel, she begins to fit in, aesthetically at least, because the Bohemians costumes are more similar to her own. At first she was suspicious of them, but became more accepting as they spent more time together. Her accepting the makeover was symbolic of this, and when she emerged in her new clothes, the audience saw her fitting in for the first time. Because of her already established connection with the audience, this created a happy response. The production was set on another planet called Planet Mall.

I think this was primarily because large elements of the play are fantastical, so it helped you suspend your disbelief and become more absorbed in it. It was also a play on words because ‘malls’ are archetypical of the institutions the play is criticising. However, especially during the Heartbreak Hotel section, there are many references to pop culture and things familiar to today’s audiences. This increased audience response because when they can identify them, they can relate to them. It was also used as a comic tool.

For example, the ‘macho’ action man character was called Britney Spears, which was extremely ironic. The production played on the pretence that the Bohemians knew very little about today, so they were oblivious as to how wrong they had been in their name choices. Most of today’s audience would understand the joke, and therefore feel more involved in the production because they feel it is more aimed at them. So in conclusion, the production combined strong individual performances, effective lighting and staging, themes and setting/references to popular culture with other things to create a successful piece of theatre.

These wide ranges of techniques and devices helped the play to engage the audience on many different levels, by stimulating them visually, verbally, emotionally and intellectually. Although, for analytical purposes, I divided these things up, the audience responded to them as a whole and they worked together to make an impact. However, theatre, by definition is an art. So although We Will Rock You is technically a good piece of theatre, due to the subjective nature of the arts, it wasup the individual whether they enjoyed it or not.

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