Tuesday, 18 February 2014

From The Archives: We Will Rock You (Schools Version)

In 2013 I starred in my school's production of We Will Rock You, a script that I'd had an open contempt for. Half-way through production, while things were still on the wrong side of bitterness, I wrote an article about how much I hated the script - this was that article. After the night itself I decided that the article contained too much bad blood and didn't reflect how much enjoyment I actually got out of the production when I actually did it, and thus I decided to take it down. But, since an article is an article, I have it here for your reading pleasure. May contain words unsuitable for children from the outset.Written 8/12/13.

Well gosh diddly darn, what fuckery is this. In 2000, Ben Elton, the mastermind who co-wrote half of Blackadder and has done many other interesting and mildly amusing things, coupled together with Brian May of Queen fame and wrote a musical titled We Will Rock You which, at Elton's suggestion, forges an original story which tries to capture the "spirit" of Queen's music while attempting to provide convincing reasons for those songs to be sung, with "attempting" being the word of the day. This script is currently being performed by my own college, but unlike previous years in which I've actually taken shots at my colleagues, I'm reserving this particular article for the bile that I have towards this terrible, terrible play.
     Opening out into a futuristic Dystopia in which Big Bad corporation Globalsoft has used the bubblegum pop of the early Noughties to take over the world and suppress all freedom of expression, we follow the ridiculously sexist Gallileo Figaro and his "babe" Scaramouche as they discover that they are the ones chosen to follow an epic prophecy described in Bohemian Rhapsody and bring Rock Music back to the world. Along the way they meet stoned Mr. Exposition "Pop", the gender-swapped Britney Spears and Meatloaf, as well as a cast of other embarrassingly named characters all living under the tyranny of the sycophantic Khashoggi and his mistress, Killer Queen. The musical is punctuated by Queen's greatest hits, in varying levels of appropriateness.
     The premise is unashamedly cheesy from the outset, and by itself there's nothing wrong with that - the show is clearly trying to make some sort of point, and cheesiness can often be a good background for doing that. (See The Happiness Patrol). However, the point made by Elton is not exactly subtle, but neither is it pertinent enough for anyone to actually care - all it amounts to is a bitter old man mumbling about how music isn't the same as it used to be, and while there is something to be said about the monopoly of the big producers over mainstream pop, the idea of this leading the world into dystopia, no matter how hilarious and somewhat "in tune" with Queen's spirit, is really fucking stupid.
     A bad concept is not the nail in the coffin for a work of media, though, as long as there are half-decent characters. Which is sad, because the closest we come to three-dimensional characters are in the two leads, Gallileo and Scaramouche, whose dialogue is either poorly realised, soapish dramatics or mythos-related claptrap that verges on cringe overload. Now of course, my group is working with a schools-friendly version, but a look at the unadulterated version of the script shows that lines like, "The beat is returning/the beating of our hearts" have in fact been added in to substitute for even cheesier and less appropriate lines. And when a line like that is even considered remotely appropriate, you know we have a problem on our hands.
     I'm sure there were good intentions at this production's heart, but the script and story must stretch their small semblence of a point so much in order to accomodate the Queen songs that you don't get attached to any of the characters, and the ones you do spend time with are either walking clich├ęs or first class idiots who don't have much character development besides discovering the "power of rock". The original script is also ridiculously cheesy and crass to the point of unworkability. This is not the So-Bad-It's-Good masterpiece that the world current seems to treat it as - it's an immature, badly-written piece of crap, and in all honesty I'm embarrassed to be performing it this year.


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