I went to see Gaddafi last night. Sadly, it was a bit of a disappointment. Poor production values certainly conspired against it: sloppy stagecraft, unadventurous lighting and props, and sound quality that one wouldn’t expect from a theatre like the ENO. It appears it’s their first foray into something so modern and experimental, and it shows. Flaky choreography and a cluttered stage layout didn’t help either.
But the greater problems were in the recreation of the al-Gaddafi story. The script was badly developed, jumping around and never really deciding who Gaddafi was or what the story was about. The historical context was never clear, despite obvious attempts to convey it - apart from when it involved the west, when reliance on pre-recorded TV footage seemed to be the only way the director could sell his message. Apart from some vague sense that I probably wouldn’t like him, I learnt little about Gaddafi or Libya that I didn’t already know (and I’m hardly an expert). Some self-conscious statements about an actor playing Gaddafi, breaking the fourth wall, were arrogant and out-of-place.
The main redeeming feature of the production was the participation of the Asian Dub Foundation to provide its soundtrack: a well-balanced complement to the (intended) themes. This wasn’t enough to recover everything else, however.