Daily Archives: August 21, 2006

The Worst URL Ever?

I saw this a couple of days ago. They couldn’t have come up with a longer URL if they tried. Surely this one is bloody hard to remember! I can’t Adam and Eve it 🙂

BTW no, I still haven’t progressed with hosting my pics on a photo-sharing site…

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Janka – a Holocaust Memoir Stuck in 20th-Century Form

Yesterday I saw another couple of shows for free, as my BF was working for one of them (Janka) and filming the other one (Something in Between). Below is a review of Janka and I’ll get to the other show in a different post.

Janka.

Janka is the compelling and redemptive story of Janka Festinger, who survived the Holocaust, fell in love, married an American GI and immigrated to America to live the American Dream. At 70, she finally tells her powerful story.

The ‘play’ was split into two halves and there was a 10-minute intermission. Good job it was – the first half was rather difficult to like. Not because of its contents – I’m not offended by anything to do with the Holocaust that quite naturally includes a lot of anti-German feeling. It’s just that the format was not very successful: Just one actress on the stage recalling her memories in a monologue. A mix of Holocaust and later life experience. I felt for the first time that this type of storytelling or narration was the predominant mode of the 20th century. Difficult to put my finger on it and on exactly why it felt that way. I’m not going to analyse this in more detail, I just felt that it’s become history. NOT the Holocaust itself but a certain way of storytelling. Surely this is the way people into the first few years of the 20th century felt about the Victorian age, in terms of art and culture and in particular, the novel. I.e. what the Modernists sought to change and challenge. I read an article about a related topic in Saturday’s Guardian. Reviewing the (just ended) series of Big Brother 7, the author’s argument is as follows: the target group for advertisers, the under 30s, hardly watch TV these days. Why is Big Brother still successful? It’s because it sin’t TV as we know it. According to Mark Lawson (full article here), it has in fact ceased to be Television:

Big Brother – a multiplatform programme perfectly adapted to 24-hour streaming, podcast and email updates – remains one of television’s few remaining holds on this rapidly retreating audience. Conventional TV ratings severely under-estimate its actual cross-media impact. That is why Channel 4 still wants it and ITV1 craves it, however much brimstone flows from the cardinals of media commentary. Indeed, the very qualities that make old-fashioned watchers cross – contrived manipulations of the format, weirdo personnel, casting for sexual explosions or mental implosions – increase the brand’s attractiveness to this generation which just seeks entertaining pictures for its variously sized screens.

Now, I think he’s hit the nail on the head here. The geneereation that just seeks entertaining pictures for its variously sized screens. Maybe that’s why I liked the play Hello Dalai (a couple of weeks ago, on the Fringe) because that’s what it was – just a conglomeration of entertaining pictures. Unlike Lawson, I would argue that this viewing mode is not a property of the medium, but one of the audience. I.e. it applies to TV as well as theatre and all other forms of art. Certainly worth looking into.

Anyway, I got sidetracked. I think that Janka is a 20th century play that requires a 20th century audience and in Lawson’s words, the old-fashioned watcher. And that’s the reason why I couldn’t quite get into it. I know the 20th century viewing mode and like it, but I think that lately I have switched more fully into 21st century. Spectacle without substance. The ADHD mentality.

The second half of Janka somewhat made up for its first half. It was a lot tighter, without the continuous crossing over and mixing up of the character’s life in the USA. . I found myself getting into it more, and, while staring at the photos of the Jewish family on the screen, the character’s monologue lulled me into some kind of trance, and I connected more with the experience and could appreciate the moving story.

Overall, I’d say it’s a good play, but old-fashioned. Its heavy subject matter means that the at times monotonous monologue may be the most appropriate form for it – a form however that is difficult to communicate its content to a younger audience. Since a younger audience is central for the passing on of the horrific story of the Holocaust, it may be time for the Holocaust to find a 21st-century form. How that is possible I do not know.