April 18th, 2007


Melodrama Rules

Tonight, we went to see Coram Boy in a party arranged by a local fan who delights in arranging such things. It's the second preview--the play opens officially in May--which probably accounted for the incredible nervous energy of the performances and a certain amount of careful skirting of the furniture. It was wonderful, and I enjoyed it very much. In true melodramatic style, the plot has more threads than the Unicorn Tapestry and more coincidences that Dickens (which it much recalls--also the novels of Leon Garfield), I can't say anything about it without giving too much away.

But it's inspired me to a paeon of praise for melodrama.

There's not a lot of grand emotion in art these days. There's irony, sentiment, disgust, neuroses. There's lust and romance, in the most literal sense of the word. There are a lot of ideas. But big emotions, grandly drawn and displayed, are old-fashioned and seldom seen. It's a pity. Because such emotions are wonderfully theatrical.

It's not a great play. It's more intelligent than any other blood and thunder spectacle I've seen on or off Broadway lately, and it's very well constructed, but it is a melodrama rather than a deep and thoughtful exploration of the human psyche. The story doesn't leave a lot of room for shades of grey in its characters, and at least one of them undergoes a belief-defying (if wholly satisfying and necessary) transformation. But it's a supremely theatrical play, and the National Theatre Company's production is gloriously, unapologetically, effectively theatrical. And it worked. People laughed at the funny bits, gasped at the horrific bits, cried at the sad and touching bits, and surged to their feet at the end, crying bravo. Including me. And I never (Well, hardly ever) surge to my feet unless someone is trying to get past me so they can get out and home ahead of the crowd.

Now I want to go write one. A melodrama, that is--not necessarily a play. Although I met a man not long ago who was looking for a liberettist for a fantasy opera--any fantasy opera--and asked me if I had a story I thought might be adaptable. I can't think of a story of mine that would be. "Fee Verte"? "Fall of the Kings"?

No, no more projects. Must finish The Magic Magnifying Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. And go to more plays.