Tonight I’m off to a media performance of The Syringa Tree at the Great Canadian Theatre Company. This is an award winning and internationally acclaimed play and it therefore seems a good way to begin the GCTC’s season. I will also be writing a review of this play for Cult(ure), and this time I decided to do a quick Google search to find out at little about the show in advance. This is actually the first time I’ve taken this approach. I believe strongly that a play should be taken on its own terms. For this reason, I prefer to go into a show as “fresh” as possible. It’s worth noting that I still carefully avoided all the reviews of other companies’ performances of the play in an attempt to remain unbiased.
Naturally in my Googling one of my first stops was Wiki. While Wiki has its issues, I find it pretty reliable for a very general synopsis. Wiki had this to say about the play:
“The Syringa Tree is a deeply personal memory play of a childhood under apartheid. Written and often performed by Pamela Gien it has received excellent reviews in New York and across the USA as well as in London. Also very positively reviewed in Dublin, the play has received several awards.
Originally, the play was intended for one actress only, with no props besides a swing and one costume. However, it can also be performed with two or multiple actors.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Syringa_Tree)
I find that last line particularly intriguing and I’m really curious to know if Pamela Gien has made that allowance in her script. I would suspect not, as she performed it solo in the original off-Broadway version. I think it’s fair to assume that she would have performed it the way she felt it should be performed. (I could be wrong.)
I fully understand, however, why a company might decide to add other actors to a Solo actor show. There is something very compelling about “the chemistry” that happens between two or more actors when they perform on stage that is always missing from solo work.I usually prefer the performances of multiple actors over solo actors because I enjoy this chemistry so much.
That is not to say that solo performances aren’t worth seeing. Many of them are quite excellent. Pierre Brault’s Portrait of An Unidentified Man, for instance, is a great example of one that did everything right. It was unquestionably one of the best shows I’ve seen this year.
I’m not sure how I feel about converting solo actor scripts into multi-actor scripts, which brings us to Wayne’s question of the day:
Is it OK to take a script intended to be performed by one actor and turn it into a multi-actor piece? Judging by the Wiki entry, this is precisely what someone did at some point with The Syringa Tree.
(Bonus points will be given to anyone who has read the play and can therefore illuminate us on whether Gien has actually made allowances for this in her script.)