Tell me you wouldn't love this. You're settling into your seat at the theatre. The curtain is about to rise on The Jersey Boys , say, or Act Without Words II. But before the show begins, the stars of three or four other shows rush in and hurtle through capsule versions of their productions: all tease and shiver, crackle and charm. Yes, my friends, the monkey would love to see trailers, live on stage.
You can't quite see Dame Judi Dench hurtling round a dozen theatres in London's West End to plug Madame de Sade? Me neither, alas, but wouldn't it be amazing if she did? The closest we get on the London stage is smart dance house Sadler's Wells, which each year offers snatches of its shows in programmes called Sampled. They're a bit like galas - one of the curses of ballet, to my mind, with their glutinous miscellany of crowd-pleasers - except that the tickets are cheap and the evening's function is unashamed come-on. There's a good atmosphere, but a whole evening of trail becomes wearing, so I ducked this weekend's selection, which included ABT and Matthew Bourne's Swan Lakes, plus circus, flamenco and hip-hop.
I love trailers: during a stint as a movie critic, and mostly attending press screenings, I began missing them, and would have to lean into the laptop at home to scratch that itch. Theatre companies still seem pretty shy about trailing their productions. The National Theatre goes for arty black and white, but what's fantastic about a trailer is the minidrama. In two minutes you get a narrative arc, principal characters, a couple of the second-best jokes or less jaw-dropping action sequences- everything bar the don't-spoil-it highlights and the ending.
The monkey is still hazy about the details of how this would work, though you'd surely need some boom-throated actor to stand beside the stage and intone, 'She thought she could have it all. The man. The glory. The gun', or maybe 'When times are hard, something's for the chop.' And, yes, ten scene changes in 90 seconds might be taxing. But think of the joy, people.
A recent New Yorker profile of Tim Palen, Lionsgate's promotional general, shone some light on the trailer's dark arts - how you work with what you've got, unless you haven't got it. In which case, you pretend that you have. Savage recutting makes snoozy films seem snappy and whiny ones romantic. We're used to seeing foreign-language movies trailed without a line of yer actual Hungarian, and I only realised quite how box-office-poisonous Woody Allen has become when watching the trailer for Vicky Cristina Barcelona earlier this evening. In his pomp, his name would have sold the movie, bannering across the screen in big caps. Now it's strictly small print, and the trailer is all about Javier Bardem's tomcat moves plus some smoochy girl-on-girl action.
Even so: I don't care if they tell little white lies, or even big nasty fibs. I don't care if they run over dramaturgical integrity in the hobnailed boots of immediate gratification. I just want trailers on stage, live and lively. Someone, please, make this work.
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