On the 25th, I opted to join some of my fellow Thespis Project company members in watching two separate but related performances from two sister companies. It’s a decision I’m very glad I made. As the two companies are individual entities offering individual performances, it makes sense to review them individually, though I’ll reference back and forth where appropriate:
‘Staircases’ by Antonym Theatre
The premise of this performance is an idea called ‘L’espirt de l’escalier’ or “spirit of the staircase”, a term describing the concept of conversations one wishes they could have had. It’s a good theme to work with, one that naturally allows for a whole range of interpretations. The writers of the piece made full and confident use of this. The series of self-contained vignettes, one or two reoccurring, offered characters and stories that incited everything from belly laughs to throat lumps.
The entire cast should be commended but I can stay for the certain the standout performance came from Cara Withers, who slid seamlessly between highly disparate characters, to the point where she was almost unrecognisable from one scene to the next. She was, to quote my friend sat beside me, “superb”, and without doubt one the best things about this show. Laurie Ogden should also be praised, not only for her impeccable range of hairstyles but also for her powerful delivery in the doctor and patient vignette. A last mention goes to Jen Wakely who in particular demonstrated how to best handle the balance between the comic and the serious. Her own monologue is one of the most moving sections of the show.
While much of the piece was impeccable in terms of script, I felt the first vignette was lacking something in its dialogue. It seemed at times to tiptoe into the territory of cliché and, as such, jarred slightly with the ear in a way which prevented me from being fully absorbed into the show at first. Luckily this slight short-falling came at the beginning of the piece and was more than compensated for by what came after it.
A brilliant idea, expertly executed. All involved should be very proud of what they’ve produced. Would definitely recommend:
‘Dust Never Settles in Torchlight’ by NakedFeet Physical Theatre
…what can I say? I was blown away, utterly blown away by this show. I feel confident in calling it the best piece of physical theatre I have seen in a very long time.
It advertises itself as a “reworking of Ovid’s Metamorphose”, a set of tales that, given their age and ubiquity, have the flexibility to be adapted into any medium. In the case of physical theatre, it thrives. At least when devised by this company. I was familiar with some tales more than others, but I feel knowledge of Greek and Roman myth is not necessary to appreciate this show. It is very much exists as its own entity and, of course, intends to tell these stories as though for the first time, even if it does put its own unique twist upon them.
The movement, though intricate and clearly the result of much hard choreographic graft, seems almost effortless to the audience. The entire cast ebb and flow around each other in a manner that mesmerises the viewer mere seconds into the performance. There are moments of wafting serenity, and moments of intense, writhing discomfort. Every leap, twist, and step does exactly what it seeks to. The partner to the movement is the music. I would like to shake the hand of whichever person, or persons, selected the score. It was perfect. That’s a big word which I prefer to avoid on the whole when reviewing, but I can think of nothing else that does this appropriate justice. Music and movement matched each other at every turn, and not once did I feel either was out of place with the other.
The most memorable performance of the piece comes from Laurie Ogden, who you’ll remember from the previous review, in the role of Myrrha, who here serves as a living embodiment of how a vast array of relentless, devastating emotion can be conveyed without a single word spoken. Odgen is proof of the power of physical theatre when put into capable, dedicated hands. The choreography in itself is simply marvellous, but it takes the right actor to use that choreography to its fullest effect. Ogden is such an actor.
Another returner from ‘Staircases’, Cara Withers maintained the strong streak she’d built in the previous show. Displaying yet more enviable ability via her mellifluous and entrancing singing voice, she seems to be one those people whose level of talent is almost sickening but at the same time one could never tire of seeing on stage. It feels right to also mention Alexa Farrow, who was so suited to the role of Echo that one could easily believe the company had recruited an actual forest nymph to play the part. Lastly I’ll give a nod Keith Bonnici as Clay, due to his incredible stage presence which further demonstrated just how much body language can do purely on its own.
This is a truly incredible show. All praise is due to the directors, Josie Undewrod and Cordelia Stevenson. I would, without hesitation, advise you to see this before the Fringe is up (it actually only has today and tomorrow left of its run), you will thank me for the recommendation, I assure you.
I’ve a lot on my own list still to see this week but, such is the standard of ‘Dust Never Settles in Torchlight’, I am genuinely doubtful I shall see anything better before I leave on Sunday.