In The Beginning Was The End – dreamthinkspeak @ National Theatre, until 30 March 2013
In the beginning we are full of a nervous expectation. In the end we are full of a crushing disappointment. In the middle we find a soufflé – an indulgent and elaborate work that looks more and more underwhelming as time goes by.
It is difficult to describe how many things are wrong with dreamthinkspeak’s attempt to weave inspiration from Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘A Cloudburst of Material Possessions’ into a multi-stranded meditation on a world at a supposed crux of development and chaos.
It is difficult to describe because that would have entailed dreamthinkspeak feeling it was necessary to share any of their ideas with the audience rather than thinking that a hotchpotch collection of site-specific installations mixed with cod-philosophy and an imagined future that seemed startlingly reminiscent of a mid-1980’s episode of Tomorrows World was an acceptable substitute.
At the end of the audience’s ‘journey’ (even the word makes me cringe) you are handed a leaflet outlining the thinking behind what you have just seen. It is quite a useful addition if for no other reason than for the fact that it demonstrates that the cringingly pretentious claptrap that you have spent the last 70 minutes watching seem just as cringingly pretentious when written down.
‘John the Baptist…seems to be ever present. Is he pointing the way to The Second Coming, to our death, to the end-of-world, or is he a false prophet who leads us on then abandons us to an uncertain fate? Does the slightly strange man obsessed with lemons have the answers? He seems to be dreaming of a new kind of Eden. But is it a real or a comprised paradise? The final installation mixes the organic with rudimentary technology but is it really the way forward?”
Well, when given lemons…
3 thoughts on “The show that ate itself”
interesting review – a very different take from many I have read on the production. having just written a blog post on Renaissance Men, in which I reference Da Vinci as the archetype (http://bit.ly/YjMNls) I’m really fascinated about how this production, used ideas of his that were not actioned or brought to fruition in his lifetime. From your perspective would you say this was sited as in inspiration by dreamspeakthink, but not explored for the audience’s benefit?
As far as I could see there was no specific reference point to Da Vinci’s ‘Cloudburst’ within the piece itself – I was aware in advance of the connection, but as an audience member you are not given any notes on the production until you leave it at the end. I am sure that dreamthinkspeak were inspired by what they saw in Da Vinci’s drawing – and that it drove their piece – but it was never definitely alluded to in the production. The main touchstones for me appeared to be 1970/80’s ideas of scientific progress and the accompanying technological fear – it reminded me of things like Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain or Robin Cook’s medical drama that had then been filtered through European avant-garde theatre of the late 60’s/early 70’s.
Personally I found very little was for the audience’s benefit, and even less to justify reference to ‘Cloudburst’ as anything more than an ‘inspiration’.
Thanks for your detailed response. I suppose it is totally legitimate for a starting point of inspiration ‘Cloudburst’ to not be apparent in the finished product and need not be justified, but it is perhaps strange that much has been made of this in their marketing etc…