We’re sad bags of bones, full of foibles, faults, insecurities and inconsistencies. Our lives are a litany of mistakes and bad decisions, all that keeps us going is a fragile hope that our failings can perhaps remain concealed from the world, an inherited belief that, for some unfathomable reason, we deserve to be loved, and an ambition to love and be praised.
As Jemma Kahn so botches Shakespeare’s text at the beginning of Amateur Hour, all the world’s a stage. What she and Glen Biderman-Pam reveal through a perfectly pitched show of ineptitude is that while we’re merely players on this stage, we’re seeking to be the hero, and our transparent desperation for applause is both tragic and hilarious.
It’s a bleak view but Kahn and compatriot Biderman-Pam subtly illustrate the facts through a series of excruciating acts that pretty much run the gamut of all that could go wrong in performance, from unfunny stand-up comedy to mangled accents to the ridiculously earnest dancer, all complete with terrible set design and deathly blackouts between each act.
Their intentional inability is ridiculously funny and appallingly farcical. It’s such a simple idea it borders on cliché and I was tempted to write it off as as a cheap shot. We can do that if we like, except for the fact that the overall effect of this painfully comic travesty was so achingly tender and sad.
These unprepared actors, comedians, dancers and musicians mirror the way we stumble through a life for which there is no rehearsal, no second take. They might be under a literal spotlight but it is just a more succinct version of the figurative spotlight formed by the collective gaze of society into which we are thrust daily and expected to deliver polished performances, the majority of which are destined by our lack of rehearsal to be less than perfect, a failure to some degree, hopefully lesser rather than greater.
We can never measure up to expectations, either our own or others, and the only way to deal with it is to take a farcical bow and steel ourselves for the next defeat while we cheer ourselves up by laughing at failure of our fellow actors.
Of course, we can choose to delude ourselves that we’re not amateurs in this play called life, that we deliver a consummate performance time and again, and simply choose to laugh at everyone else’s ineptness. Amateur Hour, written by Gwydion Beynon and directed by John Trengrove, offers us the same option.
Amateur Hour is at The Galloway Theatre until Monday 29 September.
— Steve Kretzmann