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.

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