Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Who´s Tommy

Early december I decided that it was about time that I went to theatre again together with my husband and as we were in Germany and we wanted to see something in English we went to the English Theatre in Frankfurt again. A lovely modern and cosy theatre on the edge between the banking and the red light district.

We went to see The Who´s famous rock opera Tommy, a work I had heard of a lot in the past but never got to know more of it than "Pinball wizzard". It was about time to find out what the hype is all about.

Here is a quick wikipedia synopsis for you:

British Army Captain Walker is reported missing, and is believed dead. His widow, Mrs. Walker, gives birth to their son, Tommy. Years later, Captain Walker returns home and discovers that his wife has found a new lover. Captain Walker confronts the two, and the lover is subsequently killed in the struggle. To cover up the incident, Tommy's parents tell him that he didn't see or hear it, and that he will never tell anyone about the incident. Traumatised, Tommy subsequently becomes blind, deaf and mute. Now in a semi-catatonic state, Tommy's subconscious manifests as a figure dressed in silvery robes who guides him on a journey of enlightenment. Years pass, and Tommy becomes a young man, now interpreting physical sensations as music.
During Christmas, Tommy's parents worry that his soul is at risk of damnation, since he is unaware of Jesus or prayer. One day, Tommy is left alone with his cousin Kevin, who bullies and tortures him for his own amusement. A pimp referred to as "the Hawker" is introduced and peddles his prostitute's sexual prowess, reputed to heal the blind, the deaf and the mute. Tommy is ultimately taken to this woman, who calls herself the Acid Queen, and she tries to coax Tommy into full consciousness with hallucinogenic drugs and sex. When this does not work, Tommy's parents reluctantly leave him temporarily in the care of his Uncle Ernie, an alcoholic child molester. He takes this opportunity to abuse Tommy without fear of being caught. Eventually, Tommy is discovered to have a talent for pinball, and quickly defeats the local champion of the game.
Tommy's father finds a medical specialist in another attempt at 'curing' him. After numerous tests, the doctor informs Tommy's parents that his disabilities are psychosomatic, rather than physical. Meanwhile, Tommy is internally trying to reach out to them. His mother continues to try to reach him, and becomes frustrated that he ignores her while staring directly at a mirror, despite his apparent inability to see. Out of this frustration she smashes the mirror and brings Tommy back into reality. This "miracle cure" becomes a public sensation and Tommy attains a guru-like status. Thereafter he assumes a messianic mantle and attempts to enlighten those willing to follow him. During one of Tommy's sermons, a reverend's daughter, Sally Simpson, sneaks out of her home to meet with Tommy. As the police try to control the crowd, Sally is thrown from the stage and suffers a gash on her face. Tommy opens his own home to anyone willing to join him, and urges them to bring as many people with them as they can. When his house becomes too small to accommodate them, a camp is built with the intended purpose of spreading Tommy's teachings. Tommy's Uncle Ernie assists him at this camp, but uses it as an opportunity for profit and exploiting Tommy's disciples. Now with all necessary resources at his disposal, Tommy instructs his followers to blind, deafen and mute themselves in order to truly reach enlightenment. They eventually reject his methods and ideology after finding that his enlightenment is not reached by being cured, but by discovering a state of awareness while blind, deaf and mute.

I don´t know what your reaction is after having read the plot but my definitely was "oh yeah, definitely from around the same era as Jesus Christ Superstar". I wouldn´t say that the topics thematised have lost all their meaning nowadays but to me they appear to be a bit dated.

The Frankfurt production did extremely well in making the most of their small cast and small stage. Everyone was young, could move and sing and the whole performance went smoothly...maybe too smooth as the first 30minutes were just a chain of suggested scenes and sampled songs, I felt a bit as if I was watching the beginning of an episode were they gave a summary of what had happened before. Informative but not very entertaining.
And what I was missing was a bit more "street cred" instead of the typical musical goodness and sweetness the majority of actors had in their voice.

It improved and calmed down after that and all in all was a nice afternoon in theatre paired with some good music and some clever staging - but the real excitement was missing.

I'm not trying to cause a b-big s-s-sensation
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-generation  

Yeah, maybe just my generation ...

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