Reader, you find me slumped in front of my laptop, head in hands, struggling to think of something nice to say about Kissing The Shotgun Goodnight. It is so easy to criticise things we don’t understand, that we can’t wrap our heads around, and I will say it requires real skill to be different in theatre, which always scores some points. That being said, style must always be backed up with substance, you cannot give your audience a show designed solely from themes and metaphors, there should always exist a form of clarity, which unfortunately plagues this new show from Christopher Brett Bailey.
The main problems can be summarised from the show’s own press release: “a head-trip of lighting, sound, live music, absurd narratives and senseless gobbledygook.” I’ll condense that as 100 minutes of ear-splitting noise, interspersed with pretentious narration. The thing I can glean from the show’s wannabe Fight Club voiceover, is that we’re vaguely dealing with dreams and suicide. Yet, there seems to be no structure and all we’re presented with is Bailey and his two cohorts Alicia Jane Turner and George Percy, wailing on a variety of instruments. This could still be salvageable, but the music is dreadful, bar the last number which I thought built steadily to a good melody. There’s no interaction, no form of human connection, nothing at all interesting going on whatsoever. Lights are bright and shining right into the audience – compounded with the horrendous music, it gives you one hell of a headache.
It’s also insanely and dangerously loud. Plastered around the venue were notices boasting about how the show is being performed at 120 decibels (aka plane taking off territory). We can wear the supplied earplugs if we really want but this will ‘compromise’ our ‘enjoyment.’ Ten minutes in and you can see the majority of the audience stuffing them in their ears as quickly as possible, clearly willing to sacrifice the fun Bailey has in mind. On reflection, I refuse to believe the show needed to be at that volume – art should always come second to common sense. I can’t ignore the fact that Ovalhouse experienced a slight technical hiccup, stopping the show halfway through and putting in an impromptu interval. These things happen, the venue dealt with it quickly and professionally, but it played havoc with my morals as it would have been so easy to sneak away to freedom.
It’s so important to keep experimenting in theatre, and when successful the results can be spellbinding. Maybe I’m old fashioned, the wrong kind of audience member for this type of theatre, but Kissing The Shotgun Goodnight made me angry – loud, obnoxious and completely irrelevant. The opening narration tells us “This is a hell dream.” You’re damn right.
Kissing The Shotgun Goodnight is playing The Ovalhouse until 11 October, see Ovalhouse website.
Photo: The Other Richard