How A Man Crumbled – Mimetic Festival

How A Man CrumbledClout Theatre

Showing as part of Mimetic Festival 2014 (17 – 29 November 2014)

In writing this review I discovered that Daniil Kharms’ 1939 novella, The Old Woman, is available to read online. However I urge anyone to hold back until they have seen Clout Theatre’s wonderful re-invention of Kharms’ surrealist story, as half the fun is putting yourself in their hands and watching how the inspired, frenetic lunacy eventually yields results and tells a very understandable moustachemenweb editedstory in a most absurd way.

Clout delivers a highly stylised piece of physical theatre which draws as much of its inspiration from the innovators of early European cinema as it does from theatrical tradition. We see the expressionism of F.W. Murneau in the careful and controlled use of spotlights to create a sense of dramatic tension through the interplay between light, dark and the spaces in between. Alongside this there runs, in the writer’s relationship with the world, the slightly off-kilter, unreal societal pressure that works to 120707-ptfestival-Tag3-198create the crushing paranoia of Fritz Lang’s M.

It is how this keen cinematic understanding is set against a clear understanding of the demands of physical theatre that is most impressive. It is one of the hardest styles of theatre to get right, and when it goes wrong it is highly noticeable. The credit that can be given to practitioners, like Stephen Berkoff, who did so much to popularise the style in the UK is to point to all the terrible productions that followed in their wake that clearly assumed it was just a case of slapping on some greasepaint and a black polo-neck.

The three actors, Sacha Plaige, Jennifer Swingler and George Ramsa, directed by Mine Cerci, stretch themselves to their physical limits. They understand that to perform grotesques they must reach extremes. Each gesture is exaggerated and each movement is set down with an absolute sense of its purpose and meaning. As a result every action has a function and a reason for existing, no matter how absurd it appears.

One could apply this to any example but particular credit must go to Sacha Paige’s portrayal of the old woman. The intensity with which the clock face is presented and the mugging expressions that accompany her every action are a true masterclass in the art of the physical. I never thought that a dreamed creation would be quite as surreally unsettling as the dwarf in Twin Peaks but Paige’s old woman is a terrifying creation; a deathless force that acts as a constant reminder of the writer’s mortality.

For the full review and much more on Mimetic Festival, please click here

The Master and Margarita – a devilish concoction of imagery

The Master and Margarita – Complicite at the Barbican, until 07 April (Sold Out)

Few companies generate the same level of excitement before a new production as Complicite. There is a noticeable frisson of energy circulating the foyer before the audience takes it seat that is the result of a reputation for innovation and startling coup de theatre. It is a position that is very much deserved, as for three decades Complicite have pushed at the boundaries of the possible in both staging and story-telling; they have championed physical theatre and challenged the standardly linear model of naturalistic performances as a mechanism for exploring deeper metaphysical questions in their work.

This approach has been extraordinarily effective in tackling themes and stories that would otherwise be far too complex to bring to stage. Who else would have attempted A Disappearing Number, a play that shone a light on the 20th century mathematical genius, Ramanujan, and engaged the audience with the complexities of sting theory? Or attempted Mnemonic, a play that was part anthropological lecture told through the story of a corpse entombed in ice, part-character study of those involved in his later discovery and throughout an examination of memory and its mutability, fragmentation and unreliability.

Mikhail Bulgakov’s 1930’s Soviet satire, The Master and Margarita, often held up alongside the greatest novels of the 20th century, has defeated visionaries from Polanski to Fellini. It’s digressive storylines and recursive plotting variously tells the story of the titular characters, The Master and Margarita, and the lengths they would go to for love, whilst also featuring the devil in the shape of Woland and a retinue of associates who wreak havoc on the Soviet literature establishment, whilst a dialogue between Pontius Pilate and Christ interweaves and informs the narrative throughout.

<Click her for the full review>