Old Rope has not seen the film Pour La Gallery. The reason for this oversight is not due to some ineptitude or inability to work the DVD player (though I cannot), but rather because it is not a real film. Por La Gallery is a piece of musical theatre and an Argentine one to boot. Since most film versions of musicals are broadly the same as their stage counterparts – and since Old Rope has in fact seen this musical – here is a review of the non-existent film of Pour La Gallery.
The film (stageshow) opens with a rather crude duet that seems to serve little import other than to set up the evening’s entertainment. It becomes clear to the sleepy viewer that there is already little sense in what is taking place on the screen (stage). This production is more a series of musical vignettes rather than a coherent narrative whole. Oliver! this is not. In fact the whole play could be summed up with the subtitle: One Man’s Quest To Be In A Madonna Video. From the word go we are treated to an endless parade of fishnet tights, bowler hats, corsets and codpieces. There are legs akimbo and limbs a flingo! It’s all thrusting and a hustling, bustling and a cussing. If I didn’t know better I’d swear that whilst not rehearsing the cast were off borrowing brown babies from Far Away.
Though obviously I have not seen any Broadway or West End shows, I would imagine the standard offered up in this home-grown production to be slightly inferior. It is, however, entertaining enough cabaret. The crowd of predominantly geriatric punters seemed in raptures over it, if that is at all possible (it’s not, this is a film remember).
The general tone attempts to tread a middle ground between the dramatic and the light-hearted and for the most part it does not find its duel identity too problematic. It is safe to say however that, though he clearly prefers the camp and the overly dramatic, writer (and star) Anibal Pachano is on firmer ground with his interludes of comic relief. The rambunctious number sung by three pretty and talented gals – portraying three different aspects of womanly love like a sort of Nancy if her psyche were hacked into three distinct and disparate parts – with its blend of wry observation and audience participation (if sitting on men’s knees can be described thus) has the viewer (audience) howling with laughter. As do the vaudevillian mime artists, who put in a sterling effort and win Old Rope’s Best Bit Badge.
When turning his sights on more serious matters, however, Pachano loses his way somewhat. The Lover & The Whore is crude, pompous, overblown and almost certainly a rather sexist portrayal of love and prostitution, whilst the business with the burkas beggars belief. A parade of women, their faces covered in shawls wiggle around in some sort of cartoonish belly-dance, before a backdrop of tear-jerking images from the Iraq and Afghan wars. Meanwhile the Prince of Persia, replete with scimitar and turban, conjures up a version of John Lennon’s Imagine that is beyond embarrassing. The whole segment was so poor in conceit and ridiculous in execution that Old Rope could not help but laugh uncontrollably throughout, much to the consternation of the present Ms Rope, who (unlike these clowns) hates to be shown up in public.
The singing and dancing stumbles to some sort of a juddering halt and our host and sometime star is wheeled out for a lengthy monologue on the nature of the show, his life on the stage and lord knows what else. Though a trifle unusual, this prolonged ego-trip is handled relatively well, delivered with wit and aplomb by a man who has no dearth of experience in front of a crowd. Despite this, one cannot help but wonder if the producers simply ran out of material to take the show to a decent running time.
Anibal Pachano is a very small man, standing approximately two feet tall and dressed in a luxuriously theatrical and camp suit, he is every bit the queen he wishes to be. Old Rope is not playing fast and loose with the homophobia here, Pachano is openly bragging about it in his turquoise finery, dismissing the attempts of his junior actors to outshine him. “They are not the queen. I am the queen” he drawls, each word curling off his lips with a sensuality only possible for a stunted gay thespian in a crown. And in terms of non-existent musical films that Old Rope has not seen, he certainly is the queen to my austere and regal king.
I give Pour La Gallery one Tate and a National.
Footnote: And no I do not know why it is “Pour” after the French word, rather than “Por” the Spanish word