Tuesday, 16 September 2008

'in-i' - akram khan + juliette binoche

by Juliette Binoche and Akram Khan


visual design by Anish Kapoorand

music composition by Philip Sheppard

lighting design by Michael Hulls

sound design by Nicolas Faure

If the Greeks had 14 words to describe different ways of loving, how many dare we experience?
A major new work of dance theatre created by one of the world’s leading dancer/choreographers, Akram Khan, and actress Juliette Binoche.
Throughout their careers, Binoche and Khan have both sought out surprising and daring collaborations. Akram Khan has always taken an inter-disciplinary approach to dance and his collaborators have included Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Antony Gormley and Nitin Sawhney (zero degrees), Sylvie Guillem (Sacred Monsters) and Hanif Kureishi.
Similarly, Juliette Binoche has made artistically challenging choices with directors such as Michael Haneke (Hidden) and Louis Malle (David Hare’s screenplay Damage), and has starred in award-winning films including The English Patient and Chocolat.Creating the environment for the duet is Turner Prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor.
in-i is a unique collaboration between three of today’s most exciting artists.

So seeing this the second time I now completely love it!
This time I am easily and fully immersed and this time what it is all seems so clear and evocative and resonant - like reading a novel except they are providing the sounds and pictures and we are making the story (whereas in a novel we make the sounds & pictures from the story the writer gives us). And watching this time it seems so obvious that they are bringing us a fictional story of the trajectory - the rise and clash and fall and remaking of a relationship that is raw from the scaring of past hurts - his from the Mullah as a boy, hers from (his?) violence and both from each other's fierceness.

So why was this second time such a richer experience for me?
A lot has to do with what I brought I think and at the preview show I limited my experience by expecting way too little perhaps: I forgot what a storyteller Akram's is, how his desire to tell a story is what propels and drives his shows, how much he wants to use sound and movement and rhythm to reach and communicate with us. At the preview I think I just sat and watched it as a display of a series of abstract skilfully made images, not looking for a complete narrative and so not seeing any. Then too I wonder if I let myself become distracted by their celebrity - I looked at this to see versions of Akram's Khan and Juliette Binoche when of course the point was to look past and through these 'names' to the people and their story they are making. (the exact opposite to the problem of trying to get 'visibility inside invisibility' cited today for new black performance of needing to become invisible from heightened visibility)
But I think too this show was more formed and performed: I suspect it needed audience responses to find its cadences and punctuation and energy flows to become a finished work. As well as the time and repetitions to transcend its parts and fly out from the performance space.

So 'in-i' now gives me an achingly recognisable series of moments layered into complex textures of personality clashes, dynamics of competing domination, funny awful mismatches of gender behaviours, soft intimate almost too private moments of connection, fighting currents of inner conflict as head wars with emotions, impulse jars against learned responses, past experience contaminates spontaneity. Moving & funny & personal & vivid & memorable.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

*** 'lypsynch' (robert lepage)

Robert Lepage

Directed and co-written by Robert Lepage
Produced by Ex machina/Théâtre sans Frontières
In association with Cultural Industry and Northern Stage
Co-produced by barbicanbite08, Cabildo Insular de Tenerife and Festival TransAmèriques, Montrèal

Written and performed by Rebecca Blankenship (Ada and others), Hans Piesbergen (Thomas and others), Sarah Kemp (Sarah and others), Rick Miller (Jeremy and others), Frédérike Bédard (Marie and others), John Cobb (Jackson and others), Carlos Belda (Sebastian and others), Lise Castonguay (Michelle and others), Nuria Garcia (Lupe and others),

and Written and Dramaturgy by Marie Gignac

This latest ensemble work from Robert Lepage and Ex Machina is an epic panorama linking nine lives spanning seven decades, and spinning stories that are surprising, funny and moving.
As we are taken on a nine-hour journey, we stop off between war-torn Vienna, pre-revolutionary Nicaragua and present day London, encountering people who have lost the power of speech and people for whom speech is the only lifeline.
A dubbing studio to the world of vocal forensics, Lipsynch follows a cluster of interwoven destinies, where each voice is searching for its own identity.
Performance time: 13:00 Running time: Approx 9 hrs/inc 4 intervals and 1 extended meal break
In English, French, German and Spanish with English surtitles.


Ada has a big voice. As a soprano. As a mother.
She comes out in concert black and sings Gorecki’s Symphony #3
a woman dies on a plane. her baby is left behind.
With the help of Thomas – a med student fan she happens upon in her trail to find our what has happened to this baby - Ada finds and adopts the baby
Jeremy & Ada move to London. Ada gives Jeremy singing lessons. Jeremy grows up to become a rock singer. Jeremy sings iron maiden’s ‘the number of the beast’ with his rock band.
Jeremy and his girlfriend travel on the Piccadilly line from Covent Garden. His girlfriend videos a sleazy man chasing a couple of women who could be prostitutes. Ada gets on. The girlfriend gets off. Thomas gets on and he and Ada recognise each other – he is living in London, working as a neurologist – as he gets off he asks Ada too call him.
Ada and Thomas get together. They propose a plan to move out to another flat leaving this one for Jeremy and his girlfriend - Jeremy rejects this saying instead he will go to San Francisco to study film.
On the plane he sings the Gorecki - partly in duet with Ada who moves slowly backwards past and away from him. His birth mother appears and walks across the length of the top of the plane towards him finally seeming to present the last part of his song

We see a projection of a painting of Doubting Thomas with his finger testing Christ’s wound. Thomas is making a tribute speech about his professor mentor – a man who had been like a father to him and a man who kept belief in both god and science
Thomas tells Marie - his patient and a jazz singer from Montreal - that the surgery to remove her brain tumour may lead to aphasia - another doctor translates this into french for her. Thomas tells her that she may lose her speech but not her voice for a period of time afterwards – so she will still be able to sing but not make words.
Thomas is briefly haunted by the professor
We get a supersize close-up of the face of a dragged up actor miming the interview of an old English grand dame talking about her early training as a speech therapist in Exeter during the war – she keeps losing names. We learn that she helped Ada - now by her side - with a stammer as a child. Fabulously funny and interesting.
Thomas and his partner neurologist have a coffee together in a bizarre off-synch set that makes sensible a film image of them sitting across from each other over a table. She tells him about a quantum physics lecture where the scientists wonders if - as things go into a parallel world when they pass through a wormhole - whether maybe with Alzheimer’s thoughts slip through a similar ‘wormhole’ into another dimension of the brain. Thomas wonders if his memories of his professor appearing to him now as a ghost are going through a similar process.
Thomas & Ada meet at the Soho jazz club to hear the jazz singer sing a bravura version of ‘April In Paris’. It turns out Thomas is getting the shakes and drinking and his relationship with Ada is in trouble. Ada leaves. Thomas gets drunk. Sarah returns, asks him if she could die – she doesn't believe but had dropped to her knees and prayed that afternoon. We see a stunning projection of Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel ceiling painting of the creation, which closes up to just the image of God pointing in much the same way Doubting Thomas had been shown prodding christ’s wound, and then this image of god morphs smoothly into the shape and form of a human brain: God, Thomas tells us, like everything else is a creation of our brain ...
We see Maria's brain surgery: an image of the parts of her brain labelled with letters ‘because every brain is unique and it helps to find their way around it’; and then we see the picture drawings she has to name and hear her lose her words.

We first have seen Sarah in the earlier scene on the tube: Jeremy’s girlfriend videoed her looking after her friend being harassed by a sleazy man. She is now in the old speech therapist’s kitchen, smoking and singing silently to ‘do you know the way to San José’’ on the radio. The old lady comes in in her motorised chair and changes the station to the news. Sarah takes her money from the bag that seems to live in the microwave and leaves. Ada arrives and gives the old lady a present.
the kitchen widens to contain a radio studio where we find Sarah, head-phoned up with a male escort, both are being interviewed about their experiences as sex workers: his is boastful and glamorous, hers is hurt and troubled – she has been abused as a child by her stepfather, she has overdosed to get away and into care, she has cut herself their to try and get away from the care worker who is abusing her, she goes from a massage parlour to a street prostitute to support her drug habit. She is not inarticulate but she is utterly out voiced by the male escort who steals the show.
As they are ushered out of the studio Sarah seems to recognise the BBC man who replaces them to read the news in smooth RP
The kitchen comes back together: Sarah back at her cleaning job with the old lady, gets some soup, heats in the microwave (taking the old lady’s bag out first), takes the soup to the old lady and finds she has died. Makes a phone call.
Outside she phones the BBC – asks for Anthony – changed his name – Tony Briggs – leaves her number saying his sister called.
Another radio studio: Tony is recording a story about Narcissus. Sarah arrives and is allowed into the studio …
Sarah and Ada
Tony at the police station

Jeremy in Nicaragua looking for info about his mother – a singer? a nanny?
Jeremy’s film
the launch dinner
blocking the singing lesson scene
the rushes
the singing teacher’s tearful close-up
sex discovered in the trailer and the german’s black eye
the singing teacher’s death scene and maria’s lost voice
Jeremy calls his mother asking if his mother was a prostitute

Sound technology – overlaying different vocal tracks using laptop – head still bandaged
Sound studio dubbing French onto Jeremy’s film: the singing teacher’s death scene. her first job. she gets the number from Sebastian for louise, who can read lips, to try and discover what her father is saying in old home movie film
Marie at home talking about medication and care for Michelle with her doctor. Louise arrives – translates what she can – banal stuff like “look at the camera” and “what do you think of my new car?” Marie trying to get back the lost memory of the sound of her father’s voice. Louise offers to stay and go through all the film. Marie leaves for her choir rehearsal
Foley studio putting in the sounds for the singing lesson of Jeremy’s film
Choir in the church. Michelle arrives
Sound studio with the voice artist trying out different ‘dad’ voices
Marie is persuaded to voice it and gets the sound of her father being in the room: “of course you will have our father’s voice” Michelle tells her

in his French speaking car trying to cancel the rest of his tango lessons because his wife is leaving him
Tony has died under a train – suicide or pushed? a woman has been caught on camera rushing away from the Manchester train platform at Euston His greek secretary turns him down for tango partnering
Interviews voice artist colleagues about him
the police voice expert analyses Sarah’s answer machine message as someone from the north, top teeth that have been replaced, not too big, and with a minor sound that would depress its listeners. she turns Jackson down for tango partnering
Interviews Sebastian who knew Tony well – worked with all his projects, saw him a lot outside of work too. Demonstrates the Tony’s voice sections making rail announcements
Tony’s flat – loads of sleazy home-made porn films. Sebastian calls him to say he’s remembered Sarah’s visit to the studio.
the police voice expert ids the voice on the answer machine and in the BBC prostitute radio show as 100% the same
Tony finds Sarah working the street in Manchester. pretends a breakdown, asks about her, gets her confession: an accident when Tony came after her and found her at the station on her way back to Manchester, they tussle, he steps back, she runs

sound recording studio: Sebastian is conducting a choir of laughers as a background track for a Susan Sarandon movie we hear running. his phone – bad news
at the morgue in his canary islands home town – identified his father’s 4 days dead body – his father’s corpse farts
at his father’s place getting clothes – simon in the closet
the taped obituary announcement being taken round the streets – the neighbours have added their names in as family – S cuts and splices the cassette tape
the wake – body the wrong way round – dentures missing – simon brings in the aunts bearing gifts – Sebastian’s first tape machine and a tape of his father’s stand-up routine

Constant noise like snow - whispers you can't ever quite catch - the voices - first as ghostly forms straining to break through the stretched membrane of your mind - then more distinct personalities: a priest, a little girl - beckoning - calling you out.
Michelle finally leaving the hospital - hiding her prescription - finding it to get her ticket out - packing her toys
Michelle at work in 'her' book shop - the first we are outside with her voices, the second inside with her warmth and intelligence and kindness - the book she lends to Guillaume - taking her pills
Michelle at home - a visit from Marie & Thomas - he is now a psychotherapist - she is fierce and eloquent in her rejection of going into another trial and Marie's smothering flattering love - he pleads innocence and instead announces that he & Marie are to marry - Guillaume arrives to return the book
The first in a revival of monday poetry evenings - a spanish poem - then Guillaume rapping with Shmo's beatbox accompaniment - then Michelle because she promised she would if he did - her poem 'and I do not die'. and I cry

A cafe. Ada waiting. Jeremy arrives with his infant in a carry-cot: Ada's grandson. Ada gives Jeremy a video: this is your mother

A Nicaraguan cafe. Lupe waitressing. Her businessman uncle arrives with an unpleasant german and his 'wife' in a wheelchair. They sell the idea of lupe going with them to Hamburg to look after the wife and their two children. Out of lupe's earshot she is sold for $600.
A doctor's surgery: Lupe is getting a medical prior to travelling. We hear that her mother died when she was tiny and her father of a heart attack when she was ten. She has high blood pressure but is otherwise healthy. She is fifteen
The doctor taking her a blood while her uncle holds her hand morphs into the german restraining her while his 'wife' shoots her arm with drugs. Then she is raped
She is re-dressed in fuck--me clothes and lined up along a caged bar. In the background a film crew are seen away
Her pimp sets up a deal in a car with Tony Briggs - they drive to a bar and he selects Lupe
Lupe is driven to a hotel room where she meets a filmmaker who pays, says she wants to film her story and gives her her card.
In the car she hands over the money and gets her baby, who she clearly adores. A car accident

The film maker now back at home in montreal with the infant Jeremy. Ada arrives, comforts the crying Jeremy back to sleep, is given the tape of Lupe’s interview - just one of 400 hours of tape this woman has filmed of the voiceless prostitutes she has interviewed - and learns that Jeremy is to be put up for foster parents

Jeremy watches Lupe’s film which we see her tell live - arms back & up and helpless with live film of a man caressing his naked torso superimposed over her - then his and many other hands mauling
Ada returns in her black concert dress and sings again

Robert Lepage / Ex machina: http://www.robertlepage.com/

Theatre Sans Frontieres: http://www.tsf.org.uk/index.php

Friday, 12 September 2008

'356' (national theatre of scotland)

Created by National Theatre of Scotland

Creative Team:
Written by David Harrower
Directed by Vicky Featherstone
Designed by Georgia McGuinness
Song by Paul Buchanan
Lighting by Colin Grenfell
Sound by Adrienne Quartly
Movement by Steven Hoggett

Cast includes:
Ryan Fletcher
Scott Fletcher
Siu Hun Li
Simone James
Marlene Madenge
Helen Mallon
John Paul McCue
Laura McMonagle
Ben Presley
Rebecca Smith
Ashley Smith
Gayle Telfer Stevens
Owen Whitelaw
Julie Wilson Nimmo

'This examination of teenage lives as they break out into the adult world is an object lesson in the creative use of the stage.' Independent on Sunday
Stunning performances from a superb young cast… It is beautiful, haunting.’ **** The Scotsman‘

'One evocative coup de theatre after another.’ **** The Herald

J is 16. She has lived in care all her life. Tonight is her first night on her own - in a 'practice flat' set up to help her leave the care system. A gateway to the outside world it is a witness to countless hopes, fears and memories.
365 follows a group of young people who pass through the flat, taking their first faltering steps towards adulthood and independence.
The National Theatre of Scotland's Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone has created a powerfully visual piece of theatre, with choreography from Steven Hoggett (Frantic Assembly), songs from Paul Buchanan (The Blue Nile) and text by David Harrower, one of Britain's leading playwrights whose acclaimed work includes the Olivier award-winning Blackbird.
For everyone 16+ Contains strong language
Running Time 1 hours 55 mins (no interval)

Thursday, 11 September 2008

*** 'helium' (slung low)

slung low
at barbican

Bella’s grandfather keeps sending parcels to her. Inside each parcel is a helium balloon… This imaginative installation tells the story of Bella’s quest to discover her grandfather’s hidden past. From the inside of a Lancaster Bomber, to a magic show in 1920s London, we uncover the mysteries concealed by a series of helium balloons.Combining live and digital performance Helium investigates guilt, responsibility and the true meaning of ‘release’. As the performance unfolds in a series of boxes, each audience member has a short adventure of their own.

post script:

the day after seeing this show i open my the box and and take out the helium balloon. and with joy i discover that it is tied with a white ribbon to the storybook of the show. there is a programme inside too. and as i read the story with the remembered images from the show i do have a very special experience. and i am right that there is much density in this story and that i have absorbed only parts of it, and i love this company for anticipating this and giving me the story to find at home and discover fully ...

in the Pit foyer we're greeted by a couple of men in blue overalls from H Removals who check our names, give us a lollipop and a small card inviting us each to a birthday party, and a list of:
Things we'd like you to know;
- close all doors behind you.
- what you save with cheap boxes you'll pay for in breakages.
- that those ignore you aren't being rude it's just that they can't hear you.
- never pack explosives, combustibles, food of any kind, liquids or pets.
- always press the switch before going in. Once.
- pack all boxes to capacity.
- it's cracking to see you.
with love, H. Removals

and then one by one we are met by our H Removals guide, who sits us down and runs us through a very reassuring briefing about what to do and what to expect. Of course I knew when i booked this that i would quite probably be having to manage my bloody claustrophobia, and so it was as i was led from one small room to the next, and this was a lot easier than it might have been thanks to this expert guiding. At the same time the style and tone of this did make me feel like i was supposed to be 5 years old, which was a little unhelpful to my experience of the show. swings and roundabouts then, tricky to get right, and way better to overdo than underdo guiding as we know to our great cost, but perhaps they could relax a bit of the 'we soooo want you to have a great time' approach. a quibble.

so in the first room i am alone with Bella, who is on the phone to her family, in her recently deceased grandfather Max's room. We then hear through the radio Max in conversation with his gargoyle alter ego? twin? nemesis? satanic master? from them i learn that i am an eavesdropper and necessary to Bella being able to get the story of her grandfather's past. There is a strong sense of clues being laid down and a puzzle that i will have to try and solve. this room is intimate and the experience of being alone with a performer in a small room familiar for me after experiencing 'masque of the red death', but it's interesting to notice just how fast i have learned to become easy in this new audience~performance relationship and wonder how differently it plays with different individual audients.

my guide opens the door and - leaving Bella reading her grandfather's book - leads me out from this first room, hands me a box of popcorn, and steers me into a model movie theatre very reminiscent of the ones janet cardiff & george bure miller have made. A film is playing of 'the great Garibaldi or some such a magician, who appears shoots himself when his card guessing trick goes wrong, altho he reappears later saying something i don't remember (i've since re-seen it on the promo video and been reminded that he's saying "course it's frightening. that's the real trick: making what inside outside". meanwhile max and his gargoyle are back in conversation from the speaker box and talking about me and to me and this dominates my interest. There is a sense of more clues being laid out, and instructed to look up i find a joker playing card attached to the ceiling by a sign to 'take this card'. i do. the experience of this room is mostly confusing - maybe i haven't been concentrating enough or have become too distracted between film watching, conversation listening, popcorn munching and realising i can relax enough to know that my claustrophobia isn't getting the better of me. one of the things i do enjoy in all the rooms is that the time in each of them is long enough to get beyond the immediate novelty and begin to immerse in what is happening: in fact i could have enjoyed much longer (so it must have all been successful to have over-ridden my small space panic!)

so to the third room - the belly of a WWII bomber, with with one of the radio ops. this time i've been instructed to put on the headphones and to 'be brave'. the airman is trying to have a radio conversation with a friend called Duffy (martyn is convinced they used his name from the booking, and change it for each person, but i'm not so sure). the airman makes contact with Duffy, tells him that he's going to be a father, loses contact, and once again this is being over scored by the voices of Max and his gargoyle. then the floor falls open to show me film of a plane eye's view of the bombing of Dresden (martyn told me this - i wasn't clever enough to get this specific fact), and from this bombed and burning cathedral leaps into the foreground the gargoyle speaking directly up into our bomber but i'm so busy noticing effect of the trap door appears to have not worked smoothly and wondering if this is all i'm supposed to be being brave about and wishing it was just that bit more convincing that i don't remember what he says (but again from the promo video i've picked up the message "don't leave me behind"). i'm also still feeling under some pressure to solve a puzzle, pass a test, and perhaps this interferes with my focus, but again i think that given more time to become immersed and/or maybe less apparent density of information to be processed from Max and the gargoyle i could have quite fully entered into a belief of this world: there was so nearly the possibility of feeling i am in this bomber in radio silence with this airman whose friend has probably just been shot down.

'harrowing isn't it' says my guide as he takes me to the next room and i feel guilty because no it hadn't been really, although i think perhaps this comment was the key to release me from trying to solve the puzzle and licence me instead to simply bear witness, and this made the last two rooms easier to just be in. The penultimate 'box' is a hospital room, where i come face2face with the gargoyle, dressed as an orderly cleaning up the room, Max's voice as an image across the heart monitor screen. i think i missed important parts of the story in this room, except to pick up that because i - as the eavesdropper - was there still there listening then Bella was still turning the pages of the book in which she was learning this her grandfather's story, and that somehow during the bombing i'd just seen, Max and the gargoyle had become inextricably linked together, and that now that Max was dying the gargoyle was turning back into stone and suffering visibly as this happened. i don't know why Max laughs so maliciously while this happens, and somewhere too i am still bothering away trying to identify whose famous voice Max has (patrick stewart in fact - and a less famous voice would have saved me this distraction).

then the last room is a white space with a moving projection of cathedral arches and stained glass windows. this is the easiest room to just absorb the last of the story - a memory of Max's - that the gargoyle doesn't have because it was the one and only time time Max forgot him - of Bella letting go her helium balloon and it floating free. there is some association being made between the pages of the book of this story now heard and the helium balloons being set free and at last as Max fades away so too can the gargoyle and they can still together float free. and we watch a projection of Bella collecting her grandfather's snowscene and leaving his now packed away room for the last time, Max is finally released from his wartime guilt.

i am led out from the removal box rooms and on the way back to the foyer my guide gives me my own box with my name and inside my own white helium balloon, to go with my lollipop and my joker playing card. so it does nearly all fit: the birthday party was Bella's where she released her helium balloon, the lollipop i decide is simply a toy to help keep me and other anxious eavesdroppers calmed (and actually it works for this - the thought that i could suck it soothes despite the fact that i hate the things). the joker playing card and the suicidal magician remain an enigma for me i'm afraid.

this is a good-hearted and genuine show, warmed hugely by the care and thought that has obviously gone in to making it safe and accessible for us as individual audients travelling through new performance territories. and i love that this company is a diverse group of deliberately mixed artists and this fusion has gone into its devising and performance (just as we aspire so hopefully to do one day). it must be expensive to run because of its low audience numbers and high guiding team. it is limited by the low level of technology - the projections are not as good as we now see them in theatres and galleries, and the sound suffered for me because of the high high precision in janet cardiff & george bures miller's work.

and so from reading later i learn all the details that the above narrative of my experience has troubled over, missed or muddled:

~ the gargoyle is more precisely a grotesque - "a gargoyle spouts water".

~ 'the Great Capaldini''s show is a birthday treat for the eight year old Max, and he is the boy at the centre of the botched card trick. which in fact isn't botched at all but introduces us to Max's propensity to feel intense guilt: it is his fault the card trick has gone wrong. and the magician is not suicidal - this is simply part of the drama of the act.

~ the young airman is Max himself of course and the gargoyle chooses him to leap into from his burning cathedral in his burning city. and his friend Duffy is Duffy and not just Duffy for m duffy and me.

~ the restoration of the dresden cathedral brought no redemption for Max, it did not re-make the gargoyle's home nor offer any passing on for either of them.

~ we are invited to share this story. this is no longer just Max's story for Bella, but for us all to put our faces and names and memories and imaginings to: "just as Bella has my diary, you have what you have just experienced..."

"thank you for coming" the company write on the last page.
thank them for making such a special, wonderful and memorable experience.

but i look forward to what they make next ....

see also composer/sound artist Heather Fenoughty's blog about her making for this show:

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

'fragments' by Samuel Beckett (Peter Brook)

Five short pieces by Samuel Beckett
A C.I.C.T./Theatre des Bouffes du Nord and Young Vic co-production

Direction Peter Brook
With the collaboration of Marie-Helene Estienne
Light Philippe Vialatte
Actors Kathryn Hunter Marcello Magni Khalifa Natour

at Young Vic


Rough for Theatre I
'i'm unhappy.'
'why haven't you killed yourself?'
'i'm not unhappy enough yet.'

As the programme notes say, this short piece 'compresses Endgame to a fragment'. A man with one leg meets a blind beggar. For a bit it looks like they can come together as a co-dependent unit - Billy pushing the chair and providing company in return for canned food and shelter. But the Billy is too close and the other too vicious and they remain locked in their own perfect miseries

Kathryn Hunter is compelling and traumatic to watch as she delivers this intricate monologue that has all the raw loneliness of living alone gazing through windows possibly or possibly not with dementia but certainly beyond living well or easily: 'at the end of a long day she said to herself, who else?, time to stop, to and fro, up the stair, ....'
Shattering and wonderful.

Act Without Words II
Magni as the permanently furious clown and Natour as the perpetually happy one are very funny as they are each in turn prodded out of their white sacks by the great prodder from the sky to perform the rituals of their day. It finishes with Magni on his knees praying - for release? For a change? For anything?

Another solo with Hunter dressed the same so this feels like a continuation of 'Rockaby' - again she holds your attention interest breath even but it is so short I cannot remember anything from it beyond a woman walking with purpose purposelessly

Come and go
The last piece is a wonderful bit of perfectly timed and honed foolery: three old friends ludicrously over-dressed in hats, costume earrings & coats meet on a park bench and one by one whisper scandal about each other: 'does she know?' 'please god she isn't told!'
Delightful and hilarious.

Brook on Beckett:
'... When he discovered theatre it became a possibility to strive for unity, a unity in which image, sound, movement, rhythm, breath and silence all come together in a single rightness. This was the merciless demand he made on himself - an unattainable goal that fed his need for perfection. Thus he enters the rare passage that links the ancient Greek theatre through Shakespeare to the present day in an uncompromising celebration of one who looks truth in the face, unknown, terrible, amazing...'

channel 4 interview with Peter Brook about this show:
theatre des bouffes du nord website:

Saturday, 6 September 2008

*** 'waves' (katie mitchell)

A work devised by Katie Mitchell and the Company from the text of Virginia Woolf’s novel 'The Waves'

the Company:
: Kate Duchêne
: Anastasia Hille
: Kristin Hutchinson
: Sean Jackson
: Stephen Kennedy
: Liz Kettle
: Paul Ready
: Jonah Russell

Director: Katie Mitchell
Designer: Vicki Mortimer
Video Designer: Leo Warner
Lighting Designer: Paule Constable
Music: Paul Clark
Sound: Gareth Fry

A tale of friendship, loss, identity and love, Waves is an exploration of human consciousness, tracing a band of friends from childhood to old age and death. The fragmented and dreamlike narrative of Virginia Woolf’s novel is exquisitely evoked using live film, sound and musicians.
Following a sell-out run in 2006, and prior to Broadway, a second chance to see the original National Theatre cast in this unique and acclaimed production.

Eight actors play the friends in 'The Waves' and a Reader who we take to be Virginia Woolf herself. The same actor always gives us the face of their character but they variously play different character's voices, hands, legs, feet ... And once each character's voice is established using the read narrative device of "... said Neville / Jinny / Susan / Bernard / Louis / Rhoda / Percival" the strong character acting helped vocally by distinct accents and intonation rhythms meant it was always clear who we are listening to.
This is everything '...some trace of her' was but for me even better and I can't decide whether this is because I am more familiar with the film -theatre -sound mixed live art form -certainly I felt much happier with the decisions I made about where to put my focus - or whether there is something more simple in the both the narrative line and the telling of this story that made it a much richer deeper and certainly more moving experience. The same delight and thrill I got from watching the fabulously sophisticated execution was still there, but this time I was a lot less the 'boy in a candy shop' trying hopelessly to make a grab for everything, and more the willing Alice happily jumping through the rabbit hole into this world and its people being made before us.

They give us many wonderfully evocative moments and the effect this time is so very close to reading a novel with flashes of imagery coming in and out of sudden focus. And a lot of the best moments come from patterns:
+ the shots of different faces at the train window going off to school- and then the knees coming home
+ the split-frame dinner to farewell Percival to India
+ the series of photos with Percival before he goes oft to India
+ the sequence of moments when each of the friends read the telegram telling of Percy’s death
+ the shoes walking over wet leaves during the final reunion

The film pictures made in this show seem a lot simpler than ‘… some trace of her' and are perhaps all the potent for me because of this - my brain is given more time to fully experience the moments being made because i am less frantically keeping up making sense and feeling wowed. This extra involvement is helped by a greater degree of directing our focus and less film: in ‘… some trace …’ the film images are constant and this means that it’s always up to you moment-by-moment to decide where you put your focus. And while I love the idea of this the activity of doing it - especially the first time - is unrelentingly busy; with less film in this show I am easier about putting my whole absorption in to the film images when we get them knowing there are other times for me to watch the live action. And the use of one long table and lighting and simple un-filmed props (such as the reader's cigarette and reading lamp) means that while it is always possible to watch the peripheral activity, I have a much cleaner sense of where the main focus is. And I think this gives me a deeper more emotional experience. Yes we are capable of taking in multi-layered information from an array of fields, but this leaves us no spare space or capacity to experience the inside of any moment and the experience remains intellectual only.

So for me this earlier and less sophisticated Katie Mitchell show using live theatre-film-sound is a near-perfect experience - moving and evocative, sensuously potent for the eyes and ears, emotionally resonant, and troubling and sexy and warm and familiar and richly richly experiential at every level.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

'Crossings' by julie mcnamara

Work in progress
by julie mcnamara

Directed by Karena Johnson,

With Margo Virginia Cargill, Nadine Wild Palmer and Julie McNamara

BSL Interpreter: Hetty May Bailey

Set & Costume Design: Chris de Wilde

Visuals & Edit: Caglar Kimyoncu

Lighting: Gursen Houssein

Stage Assistants: Alan Clifton & Rory Campbell


It's high storm at Canning Dock. Shelley's on the run again. Baby Mother of a local gang, she's too long in the tooth for sound advice. Shelley finds shelter on an old ship and is transported by two powerful voices from the past calling her to a whole new set of possibilities. One is an escaped African woman from the notorious slave ship, The Zong, the other a man who isn’t all he appears to be.

Cochrane Theatre

The name says a great about this show:
Ships and people crossing the seas to and from Liverpool;
The stories of three women crossing -Shelley the young pregnant girl in contemporary Liverpool sheltering from the storm and hiding from her boyfriend pimp and his posse' in an old ship; Nzingah the woman who was pushed off the slave ship and left to drown who is full and warm with old wisdom and african pride; and Hegarty the Irish woman still trying to give her drowned brother a proper funeral after surviving the crossing to nz by dressing as a man after being raped and to avoid being thrown overboard with all the other women over 40.

The set is simple and very effective - the bow of a ship surrounded by beams suggesting both a skeleton and great strength. Plain canvas sails surround the prow and its slanted wooden deck, providing also a screen for projected images from Nzingah's & Hegarty's stories.

The first woman we meet emerges through the ship and out through images on the canvas back sail. She remains throughout signing and occasionally interacting with the players and there is potential for her to be an even stronger presence possibly visible only to Nzingah, who we don't have to know is blind.

This is the first time in front an audience for this show in development and it already feels very developed. It needs polishing and the technical side needs time to find its precision but its already compelling storytelling and rich with ideas. I'd love to hear what might come from more choral interweaving of the three distinctive accents: liverpool, african & irish. And it would be great if Shelley could also have a song - maybe a rap as she finds her strength to journey forward alone. And Cynthia suggested we see Nzingah come from an image on the back canvas. And Gareth suggested a constant underscore of water sounds [and apparently there is a composer who wants to write a score]. And I think there are some wonderful moments that would easily hold longer: the melodic drumming Nzingah makes with the beams - perhaps even getting a three [or even four] part version later with all the women; and Nzingah's tribal call.

All the women are strong and completely convincing in their characters: Nadine is wonderfully feisty and vulnerable and restless and uncomfortable; Margot is powerful and still and warm; and Julie is dynamic and fluid mercurial. I wonder how it would play if Nzingah & Hegarty used their storytelling more to empower and enliven Shelley rather than reliving again for themselves.
This is a great show that i'd love to see again after it's had more time to grow.