Originally for my drama coursework. Enjoy
‘Take a Hike’ was a cleverly montage performance, yet I felt it was heavily undone by the lack of any sort of strong point. It attempted to raise important questions, but a lack of direction, and an all too strong urge to entertain rather than provoke scuppered the message.
It began with an extremely powerful set; a kind of rubbish dump, with useless junk piled everywhere. This, I will give them, was a very clever decision, and provided an intriguing focal point for the audience to question before the performance began. It also created a strong contrast between the abstract symbolism in much of the action, and the very real nature of the junk surrounding the actors.
The quartet of players all played very well also. They interacted with most, if not all of the objects around the stage, and used varying levels to a great effect. And when a sketch involved just one or two players, the others would all take up visually stimulating freezes around the stage, which was another great decision, as it seemed to create a frame around the action.
Another framing device that was used quite well was the use of music. I personally found it quite a clever tool, as the music could be used to recognise the scene that would play out. However, it felt a bit clunky at times, especially when the music would lead into a scene that did not fit well with the music, as this would produce a strange cut in direction.
One thing that they did do very well was their research. They had produced some sort of questionnaire about rejection, and compiled the results into a set of statistics. Then, for most, if not all of the questions, they had produced a short sketch based on demonstrating a form of rejection. This was very powerful, especially when the statistic was quoted at the end, although this sometimes felt a bit tacky, as usually one of the players had to come out of role in order to say it. However, it did what I think it was meant to, and made the audience think about their experiences of rejection.
Another thing that they attempted, and could have done quite well, was to include their own experiences. For example, one sketch was about the rejection of a person who would not be pressured into doing something. In the real life experience, this was sleep with a boy. I think the ideas were very good here, and it gave the audience some real people to relate to. However, it often was not handled very well, as the performer had to come right out of role, and so the action often faltered, and the momentum of the whole show fell down. I would have done this differently, probably by recording the person who was relating the experience, and then playing it through the speakers, while the performers either stayed in a frozen image, or performed repeated motions based around the sketch and the experience. For example, in the scene outlined above, I would have recorded the actor talking about her experience, and then I would have got the actors representing the people doing the pressuring to repeatedly gesture at the pressured actor to perform the task that they wanted to get her to do, and then turn their back on her in a dismissive way. This simple set of actions would have been as caricatured as possible, and to be very repeatable.
The message – “There are lots of ways to deal with rejection” – was where the entire piece fell down. For example, all too many times, the devisors choose an interesting or funny set of sketches without thinking of the message. This was evident in the ‘My name is…’ sketches. Here, a funny, although relatively irrelevant, set of sketches were presumably meant to be linked to the rest of the piece by the performance of the last part. However, the final sketch was too contrived for this to work, and so the whole piece, which the performers had been working on throughout the show, was ruined, and any message lost. I think that my advice to the creators would be that they think about the message, and then create sketches, rather than have sketches in their mind, and then try to fit the message to it.
Another area where the message failed was where the actors tried to demonstrate what rejection, and then later on, acceptance, were, by performing short sketches such as knocking a person into a bin, or laughing at them when they tried to join in. This would be followed by a definition of the term being demonstrated. There seemed to be no point to this other than to explain that there were lots of different things that rejection could mean. This wasn’t so bad, except for the fact that suddenly, about three quarters of the way through, the definitions changed from being about rejection to being about acceptance. This did nothing other than confuse the audience, as they could not tell what the actors were trying to tell them. This explained neither what rejection was, nor how to deal with it in any way, and was such a strange and confusing new direction that, three-quarters in, we did not need. It may have worked earlier on or right at the very end, but not where it was.
All in all, I think that the performance, despite its technical brilliance, fell down heavily where the message was concerned. This was mainly due to a lack of direction, and an urge to entertain. This was a shame, because, overall, I enjoyed the performance by the quartet of players, and I am sad that it fell down so heavily.
Find out more about going to see ‘Take A Hike’ here. You will be subjected to the full performance, but I don’t think that will really be too bad a thing, as they are quite good, despite this scathing review that I’ve just written.