A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dr Zhivago

I was hoping to write this up a few days ago but life, you know, gets in the way. Mostly... I'm just knackered at the end of the day.

Last Friday evening, the husband and I caught a bus into town and went to see a live performance of Dr Zhivago at the Lyric Theatre here in Brisbane. It was a belated anniversary outing. We almost didn't make it... long story... but we got there, huffing and puffing, with 5 measley minutes to spare. Admittedly, it was my bright idea to catch a bus into town because the last time we tried to get out of Southbank parking (Star Wars Ep 3, I think it was), we were trapped for 30 minutes in an underground car park because a multitude of cars all had the same notion. Unfortunately, buses being what they are here... completely unreliable... So I was  relieved beyond words that I didn't have to miss the first act.

If you've never read the book or seen the film, Dr Zhivago is set during pre-revolutionary and Bolshevik Russia. It's a tragic tale about a doctor-poet and his ill-fated love affair with a passionate woman.

Before I go on any further, I have to say that I've never found Pasternak's novel my cup of tea. I've tried to read it a couple of times... but for some reason, I've never been able to get into it. Youthful ignorance perhaps. Hence, I went to the show purely on the strength of Anthony Warlow's singing talents. (The last time I saw him on stage was for Annie and that was 10 years ago)

I've decided after Friday that I still don't like the story but it doesn't mean that Dr Zhivago, the stage production is to be avoided like the plague. Artistically, the production values were high and the talent was something to behold. Music was likeable but nothing especially memorable. At the end of the day, it seemed to us, that it wasn't about the music but the story and characters. And the history. Now, for that alone the show rose several notches in my estimation .

After thinking it through and wondering about my reaction to the show, I came to the conclusion that I didn't really care about Yurii Zhivago or Lara. I gather that you're supposed to be all weepy that theirs is a love that cannot be. By now, all of us sophisticated, jaded modern types know that "tragic love affair" is really code for adultery. Okay... they have an adulterous relationship and it's okay because... well... she's his muse. Without her, Yurii would never be the great poet that he becomes. Even his poor, long-suffering wife admits it.
Ho hum...
But it isn't just the adultery itself that irks me, it's Yurii too. Despite regurgitating the mantra, that the strength of a man is in his mind or some such thing... he comes across as being rather wishy washy. Or tortured... code word for indecisive. No... I didn't connect emotionally with the character.. code phrase for... I didn't like him much.

Lara... I dunno. I didn't dislike her but she felt unidimensional, code word for flat. There's this great symbolic scene where 3 of the men who have loved her grace the stage together and croon about love. It summed up her role in the narrative to perfection. She was the catalyst to some major event in their lives... they loved her passion and she inadvertently changed their lives.

Ironically, the person I found most compelling was Pasha, the working class revolutionary idealist that Lara marries. Make no mistake, I despise his politics but as a person, he was the least hypocritical. He took his ideas to their logical conclusion and turned into a monster. Clearly the revolution was his big revenge on the "middle class" and their dissolute existence. In other words, he did it all... for her because she was the victim of bourgeois greed and lust.

That, I thought was interesting. Apparently sin is a class issue. (Don't remember reading that in the Bible.) At least in the mind of the revolutionary seeking a righteous mandate for his cause, it's an attractive way to frame the argument. He wanted to rid the world of sin and failed to grasp that he himself was the problem. Well, his intentions were good, right? That should be enough, right?
Hooray for the blindness of an idealist.

Here was I thinking that sin is rebellion against God which is the root cause for all our sins. But then it has always been easier to see the speck in another's eye than the log in our own.

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