It's a long time since I have visited either, I last saw Sandra in 1991 when she was touring her album EXCUSES FOR BAD BEHAVIOUR and probably in the same year I endured DICK WHITTINGTON at the Shaw which starred one of the actors represented by the agency I worked for. So both were definately due a re-visit. The Shaw has the air of an occasionally used theatre... hardly any atmosphere at all but luckily Sandra brings her own energy system with her.
She appeared at the back of the auditorium like a refugee from a 1960s cocktail party, hair up and wearing a black mini-dress 'formal' with tiny fringes and short dark gauze sleeves, dark tights and Blahnik high-heels. Elegance to the 9s for the 1/9s. She started singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from DREAMGIRLS and I knew I was going to love it! She singled out a guy in the audience as a runaway lover - thank God she didn't come down our aisle! - and then it was full steam ahead with her views on life, culture, children, world politics, celebrity, the internet and the crazy times in which we live.
It's always difficult to explain a Bernhard show. It's not stand-up, it's not a gig, it's not An Audience With..., if anything it's an address. It's also difficult to recall exactly why I was peeing myself laughing so often... she doesn't tell jokes, her observations are not punch-lines, it's the way things are said and the way she says them. However there is nothing better than Sandra getting into a rant... so worked up that the words just won't come up and she's left flailing verklempt with bile! It's also fun when she suddenly starts laughing to herself mid-rant, surprising herself with her invective.
Some guy shouted out a question just as she started which set her off! "I am NOT interfacing right now... I don't need to hear your contribution" and off she went, pointing at the stage "This is it, this is my Blog... I don't MyFace... I don't webcam... I don't sit down and give you a crabby, shitty, cracked morning face moaning about something that's in my life... this is it, I give you zuzh, I give you bijoux, I give you maquillage, I give you hair, I give you..." *flails around not finding the word* Hysterical! My favourite observation of the evening: her girlfriend comes from a WASP St. Louis family who was told at the age of 5 "We now put the emotion to one side dear".
The monologues usually culminate in song - musical full-stops as t'were. I really like her voice - an untrained belt that sure packs a punch. My favourite of the evening I have now found out was Randy Newman's "Baltimore" which had been recorded by Nina Simone who the previous monologue had been about as the epitome of a proud but angry black woman. Once asked by a reporter how she could play the piano so well she retorted "I trained at Julliard motherfucker!" An obvious inspiration for Sandra. She vanished at the end to reappear dressed in a NY cop shirt and cap to raunch her way through WHOLE LOTTA LOVE and, of course, LITTLE RED CORVETTE.
The evening had however started off on a bizarre note that really set me off thinking. We trooped in at 8pm to be told that first we would be sung to by one Chris Jacks who later turned out to be the guitarist in Sandra's band of 4 musicians. He then droned through 4 songs - typical singer-songwriter fare with ennui topping. All sung to either the neck of the guitar or to the microphone clasp, we might as well not have been there.
Now the audience was primarily made up of yappy gayers of all sexs and meedja types - definately not the audience for this act. So after a few minutes the burble of conversation started. About midway through the third song the following was heard behind us:
- Woman: Shut the fuck up will you?
- Man: Mumble mumble mumble...
- Woman: No you fuck off. Prick!
Now this set me thinking back to when a performance I was seeing of THE DUCHESS OF MALFI at the National Theatre was interrupted by someone making odd noises in the audience which a few minutes later turned out to be a man having a stroke. Ian McKellen didn't move, just stayed in position waiting for the disturbance to end before saying his line while Jonathan Hyde obviously was thrown, looking out into the audience, looking into the wings etc.
So who was in the right? The singer who continues on through the disturbance, chooses not to castigate the audience for talking but continues to sing and play just for himself or is the audience allowed to express annoyance with an unscheduled support act who does not even bother to play to them? Answers on a postcard please....