The Pajama Game . . . thoughts on the show (not a review!)

on Jun25 2017

The Nuffield, Southampton Operatic Society, 24 June 2017

Last night I went to see the Pajama Game. First on stage in the 1950s, this shows tell the story of a group of workers seeking a pay rise in a factory. Into the mix are thrown a couple of love stories. One is between management and a grievance committee rep, another is between an aggressive-knife-throwing-jealous-control-freak and a worker, and the third is philandering husband who tries to get it on with every female co-worker.

Dodgy relationships

While the songs, and lyrics, were fun (some extremely clever), and the bigger pieces great to watch, I couldn’t help but come away with bile in my throat. How is it possible that a serial philanderer works in the company, creeping over every woman, that and that anyone would go for him? Prez is a gross character and I have worked in enough places to know, for a fact, that within three days of being there you’ve been warned about which men to avoid being alone with, which men are predatory, which are creepy and which are uncomfortably odd. But, the Pajama Game clearly shows us that if creepy, touching men persevere they will eventually get to have sex. Gross. What kind of message is that for young men watching this show?

Then we’ve got Hines and Gladys. We know Hines is a control freak from his clock-watching, we know he is jealous of everyone Gladys speaks of (he tells us this), we know he has a knife-throwing act (we see it), we know he can’t handle his drink (we watch that too) and we know he is aggressive (as he throws knives in a temper at work) and yet still, with all this going on, smart, clever, fun Gladys goes back to him. And we also know, as we watch this in the course of the musical, that Hines is not going to break the cycle. So here, as an example to men, we have drunken, jealous, abuse which is forgiven. And as an example to women? Forgive, forgive, forgive. Yuck.

And then there’s Babe and Sid. The mis-matched lovers who fight about hourly wages, and then he fires her. She’s been after a pay-rise for a long time, everyone else in other factories has had one, it’s fair and just given the amount of business. But, it’s only when he checks the books and sees that there is a fiddle going on, that the rise comes into play. And then she snogs him, because even though he’s ignored her, fired her, ignored her some more, he’s solved a problem which wasn’t the one she was fighting. Grim.

Workplace fights

The show’s set in a factory, where one of the first scenes shows us Sid shoving a sub-ordinate, and then telling people multiple times that he ‘shoved him’ as if this is acceptable behaviour, because there wasn’t a punch. This is the same factory which then doesn’t call the police to report Hines throwing knives at people in the office, as it’s ‘Hines’. Seriously? I worked in a company once where the boss threw a chair at a subordinate. The next week all the staff were out of there, not laughing it off.

Choices for production

I understand why people might chose to stage this – it’s a big cast, lots of moments for company singing and dances, roles for both sexes, suits the age-range of community societies, good songs and an element of fun. But seriously, people who make these decisions should take a step back and ask themselves what they are putting on stage. Is wife beating funny? Is sexual assault funny? Is misogyny funny? I suspect that this is the kind of clap-trap that Donald Trump and the far right grew up watching.

The audience all tittered away, except for one lady sat a few rows behind us. She commented the whole way through – that’s not funny, that’s gross, that’s horrid. Far braver than I, or perhaps unrestricted by the societal conventions that you shouldn’t speak during shows? The Emperor’s New Clothes springs to mind.

Symbolism

This show is definitely of its time, the dark ages, when the gate keepers were keen to tell the stories that kept the status quo. It’s book-ended with a comment about symbolism. ‘This show’s about symbolism.’ I’m not sure what the symbolism was, or why that was referenced as a great thing? I didn’t get that, as I was too busy wondering how damaging crap like this still keeps getting put on stage.

The production (even though this isn’t a review!)

And, a note about the production. It was great. Strong singing, solid acting (a few dodgy accents, but hey ho), fun, vibrant routines and an all-round feel-good evening that the cast and excellent band were having lots of fun.  I’d definitely see when of their shows again, but hopefully not something so far from the dark ages.

 

American Idiot. Kings Theatre. 30 Apr 2016

on May8 2016

Musical mayhem

I had a lucky moment the other day when I came across an advert for American Idiot – a musical based on the music of Green Day. It was on at the Kings Theatre  – so I had a look on the website to see if there was any wonderful chance that I could find a cheap ticket. And what do you know? The theatre has reduced view seating for £15 a pop. Brilliant – but only one seat in a row full of strangers.

Not one to be openly afraid of aloneness, I rose to the challenge and confidently plonked myself on the Billy-no-mates seat in the middle of two groups.

I wonder if, when people book, they deliberately leave a buffer so to speak, perhaps because they fear the spread of other people’s knees and thighs, or perhaps because they want a chair to strategically fill with coats (especially pertinent in this apocalyptic weather of snow first thing, followed by burning sun, a roll of thunder, some juicy hailstones, a bit more sun, topped off with snow. I’ve never been in, and out of, so many layers in such a small amount of time).

There I was, in the coat chair, feeling small and a bit lonely, but secretly marvelling that the view was pretty good. And then it started. People talking to me. For all this nonsense that’s spouted about the British not speaking to each other, I’d like to set the record straight. We do, all the time. We get laughed at as a nation for constantly talking about the weather (see paragraph above); it’s our national opener. We want to talk to one another, we want to be social, we want connection.

The family on one side of me were back to see the show for the second time, they’d enjoyed it so much when they’d seen it days before. How’s that for a ringing endorsement? And the couple of the other side were there as a birthday present – a surprise one – and they’d never been to a theatre before. We may have been there to see American Idiots, but in a truly British way we shared our uniqueness within a few moments of meeting. I loved that.

The show itself was okay – I embarrassed myself aplenty by not knowing many songs and failing to get a grip on the plot (could it be as simple as I thought?), but the pace and choreography were stunning. Bring on more cheaper tickets and I’ll be back every night. . .

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