The Amateurs

The Amateurs is about a theatre troupe of actors with learning disabilities who get the chance to perform on a professional stage. The theatre director is none too keen, and insists professional, able-bodied actors must be part of the production. He then further ham-strings them by insisting that it must be a Shakespearean performance.

Like, the dude is obviously setting them up to fail so they’ll get discouraged, bow out, and he won’t have to give them the stage in his theatre. But he hasn’t reckoned on Krzysiek, the troupe manager. Dogged and determined to do his best for his company, Krzysiek tries to plow through the myriad roadblocks in the film to ensure his actors get their chance on stage.

Really enjoyable film. I loved that it was a Shakespeare play, because, as much as I love Shakespeare, it really brought back what it was like to go through it in school, and have folk read what was effectively a foreign language given the centuries, in this deeply unnatural metre made for the 17th century English stage, and have to get a glossary explanation for every other word. You spent so much time just decoding it, just to be able to make literal sense of it, and then the teacher would ask you analyse the themes of it, and it was like, Whit?!

In the film, because the disabled actors are used to dealing with presumed incompetency and expected failure, they are there rehearsing every day, and practising their lines every night. Whereas the able-bodied professional actors turn up late, kvetch, and don’t put in a tenth of the same effort. Their doubt and worry about their rep is what pulls at the threads of the enterprise, leading to growing tension and conflict among the cast.

What I also liked about this film was no one was an out-and-out bad guy. The theatre director is ableist, but they don’t make out like he’s some monster. He does move from his initial position at the beginning of the film, not having some transformative Tiny Tim moment, or some other horrendous trope, but he does grow.

Everybody in this film is concerned with success – the play must be a success, Krzysiek must make this colab a success, the old thesp and the young actress looking for credibility each have their own idea of making this a success for their careers. A failure is seen as a disaster, and as the wheels start to come off the production as the film goes on, that is the source of the characters’ stress.

But what is success and failure within the context of an amateur play? For a professional production success means money, and failure means loss, but what happens when you take the commodification of art and performance out of it? What is a success then? That you have fun. That you create something new with your friends. That you show an audience something they haven’t seen before.

The journey of this film is a journey back to the core of creativity and human expression. Its about how much we pile on, only to find the burden precarious. And how liberating it is to let go.