So, last night I went to a student stage production of Metal Gear Solid.
I say again: Last night, I saw a stage production of the original Metal Gear Solid.
Like, in a theatre.
I went (gobbling beer enroute) with the twin objectives of fulfilling curiosity and writing something funny about it for this blog. Something like Charlie Anders’ review of the second Transformers movie, except not as good, because I’m not sure anything will ever be as good as that review.
I mean, how could this play not be the worst thing? The plot of MGS is a jangling gymnast that rolls back and forth and only makes sense on your 2nd playthrough. It’s also part tedious speeches and part bombastic action that wouldn’t work on a stage. The reason it works as a game plot is because the characters run over with personality, and you spend so long talking (or at least listening) to them that they claw their way off the script and into your head where they will squat for all time.
Now this play, it was bad. The actors weren’t projecting and any clever production (like Snake fighting a Hind-D that appeared on a projector) was way outweighed by scenes where costumed actors did nothing but act out cutscenes.
But I can’t write mad copy when the madness isn’t there. The audience were all familiar with the game in some respect and totally got into the show. The actors knew the game was camp and gave camp performances, peaking with an exceptional Psycho Mantis, not seen here. Here you’ll see a slightly less exceptional Revolver Ocelot. He loves to reload during a battle.
I’d gone to this show planning to write about how the actor playing Snake was beating my childhood to death with a rock, but it wasn’t that bad. Instead I got bored, and began thinking about how I’d produce MGS as a play.
Here’s what I’ve got so far:
If you’re creating a stage adaptation of MGS you can’t just recreate the game on stage, because MGS is not just a story. It’s a videogame, an experience that you personally live through.
My vision of an MGS theatre production opens with Snake infiltrating the docks as normal, except Snake gets shot and killed. You then bring a spotlight up on the right side of the stage where sits Simon, a lanky 14 year-old nerd done up in a hoody and glasses, sat on his bed and clutching a pad. The way I see this play working involves perhaps 60% scenes from the game and 40% scenes from the suburban household where it’s being played.
Simon is the awkward teen who’s bought MGS on release day. He’s got his 2 litres of fanta and a microwave pizza. He’s fucking excited. Following Snake’s death in the docks Simon grunts, the lights go down on him and back up on Snake as the two of them attempt the dock infiltration again.
The moment Snake is through the docks and changes into his sneaking suit, Steve’s doorbell rings. It’s his best friend Iarla and Iarla’s girlfriend Sarah, who Simon has a crush on. Iarla and Sarah have a shitload of cider and want to get drunk. Gradually Simon wins them over to the idea of playing this game while they all drink, and that’s your set-up. As the trio progress through the game in one sleepless night, you get both the game and their commentary.
Except Iarla does go to sleep. He gets wasted and has a nap. The plot then becomes Simon and Sarah having this shared experience, and you get to do something with all that rhetoric and sexuality that chokes MGS’s second half. As you’re watching Snake’s pep talk to Meryl in the ladies’ toilets or Otacon lamenting his love of Sniper Wolf, you’re thinking about how this would effect Simon and Sarah.
Simon, whose teen mind knows no bounds in its adoration for Solid Snake, begins taking the legendary soldier’s advice and working up to making a move on Sarah. Sarah, previously having no respect for games or Simon, begins seeing Simon differently as he lives through Solid Snake. She watches him wordlessly overcome tension to sneak through room after room, figure out how to escape the prison cell and become genuinely scared to protect Meryl. She sees a new side to him.
The game ends as dawn comes up in the real world. As Snake and Meryl share a skimobile out of there, Simon and Sarah look at each other. A moment passes. You’re praying for Simon to say something, anything. This is where Iarla wakes up and takes Sarah home. The audience get the hint that a seed’s been planted, but no more than that. The audience have already had their ending, with Metal Gear Rex and the death of Liquid and Gray Fox.
The more I think about it, the more I wonder if it could work. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll get to find out.