Comments by Gail M. Burns, August, 1999
This is not a review because I was unable to stay past intermission. I had donated blood that afternoon and apparently my body only had enough energy to last until 9:30 PM after that. I stood up at intermission, realized I was about to faint and made a dash for the car, where I remained unconscious for the drive north from Sheffield to Stockbridge. So these are just some comments and impressions.
It is rather apt that I, a theatre critic, keeled over from loss of blood at a play about a theatre critic who becomes a recruiter for a coven of vampires. I wanted to see St. Nicholas because I was intrigued to find out exactly how disgruntled and disillusioned one had to become with theatre criticism before joining the undead. Not the most obvious career move.
The key to avoiding the downward spiral into vampirism is to apparently to stay sober and never to party with the cast and crew after opening night. I realize that there are many people, especially actors, playwrights, directors, and designers, who would tell me that being a vampire is a far higher calling than being a theatre critic. That theatre critics are in fact the lowest form of humanity. Since I have felt called to this career since I was a teenager, and have never felt called to be a vampire, I would disagree. But I am fully aware that the actor, playwright, director and designers who created this play probably had that exact moral lesson in mind.
This is a one man show, and the man in question is a highly successful theatre critic in Dublin, Ireland. By the time he narrates this story (a story written by a playwright and told by an actor) he already considers his career as a vampire a much more dignified way of life than the time he spent as a theatre critic. He tells us a great deal about how he over estimated his importance, and that actors, directors, playwrights, and designers encouraged that feeling of self-righteousness. That his inflated ego was also fueled by his advanced alcoholism is also evident.
His epiphany comes after a party with the cast and crew of a play he has panned. At the party, he tells them all how much he loved the show and that he gave it glowing notices – which, of course, is a lie. He also falls madly in lust with a young attractive actress in the cast. He pursues her to London when the show transfers there, and he humbled to realize that his fantasies that she returned his ardor are all false. Stumbling about the London suburbs after an embarrassing drunken evening in the home this actress shares with the rest of the cast, he winds up asleep amongst the remains of the Crystal Palace, and awakes to find himself in the company of a young male vampire.
And that is where the first act ends.
I will decline to comment on the actor or the production values, because my opinions would be tainted by my illness and my status as a theatre critic myself. The only really objectionable aspects of it all were the mosquitos and the hideous light blue seersucker suit the actor wore. However I will comment on two of the issues raised in the first half of the play.
It is easy to acquire an inflated sense of self importance as a member of the press, not just as a theatre critic. I have always been saved from falling in to that trap by two things – one, a deep knowledge of myself as just one person capable only of representing my own point of view, no matter how objectve I strive to be; and two, a horror bounding on becoming a phobia of socializing with the cast and crew of any production.
I realize that some people get into entertainment journalism in order to hob-nob with the rich and famous, and get invited to the right parties. On the other hand, while I had a pass to the opening night gala for the recent WTF production of As You Like It featuring Gwyneth Paltrow (and have had passes to every WTF opening night gala this season), and I would have dearly loved to have an opportunity to shake hands with Blythe Danner and actor Mark Linn-Baker, I could not reconcile the fact that I would be writing a review of what had just happened on the stage. In fact I gave Linn-Baker a harsh review, and just how do you tell a mother that you have the power of the press over her daughter? A conversation with Danner or Linn-Baker under those circumstances, no matter how innocuous, would not have been appropriate or professional.
I suppose that my sense of myself as only a very small molecule in this universe. I just happen to be a molecule that writes. A writer has a certain amount of power… (to be contiued)
copyright Gail M. Burns, 1999