BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON
Fighting Chance Productions, Performance Works, until November 11th, 2017
My Two Pence
By Robert Blackburn
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (BBAJ) produced by Fighting Chance Productions and on at Performance Works is an extremely mixed bag, so much so that it's hard to decide whether I enjoyed it or not. The actors were all competent enough, they sang well (a couple exceptionally), the choreography stood up despite extremely quick transitions and costume changes.
So why am I on the fence? The performance I saw was completely besieged with technical problems. Mics switched on and off at random, they weren't switched off backstage, so you could hear coughs, sniffles and hushed questions. The electric guitars drowned out the opening number so badly that none of the lyrics could be heard. Then there was the constant feedback, snap, crackle and pops over the sound system for the majority of the first two-thirds of the play. It was cringe-inducing as an audience member and it seemed to sap the cast of its energy as they went into the last forty-five minutes.
It's hard to be so critical of BBAJ when it was the behind-the-scenes, technical aspects that let the experience down. The show is designed as a huge, glam-rock concert to portray Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States and his somewhat debatable legacy after his tenure in Washington DC. The cast and crew certainly endeavoured to create this atmosphere. When songs went by without glitches, it was reminiscent of being up at the front of the stage at a rock gig. However, the two stand-out songs of the night was when the electric guitar wasn't used (which makes the glitches and feedback even more intolerable) and these were 'Ten Little Indians' by Annastasia Unger and 'The Great Compromise' by Martha Ansfield-Scrase, who were both arguably the strongest voices of the evening.
Daniel Berube who portrayed Andrew Jackson certainly seemed to have the charisma to portray this characterisation of the President- a drinking, swearing, Indian (Native American)-hating fighter. But Berube, unfortunately, seemed particularly drained by the numerous sound cock-ups. I have a huge amount of sympathy for him and how difficult it was feeling the life drain away from the evening.
BBAJ is actually a very relevant piece of theatre in its ability to mirror exactly what is going on in America right now, albeit with different sub-sects of society facing the brunt of a less-than-caring President. Whether Jackson was as truly narrow-sighted in his ambition to do what he thought best whatever the consequence would need further reading but the play certainly portrays him as a brazen, uncaring man with little care for the plight of the Natives. But on the other side he was a swashbuckling, rambunctious, rock group lead singer who put his finger on the pulse of this young nation. I was able to see all this and get taken by the flow of the “gig”. It would have been even better if I could have heard it as well.