Posts Tagged ‘Blue Elephant Theatre’

Sonata Movements, Blue Elephant Theatre 25 April

April 26, 2012

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Picture from dulwichonview

So this is a sonata made from four movements which combine texts with different pieces of piano music.  At the post-show discussion,  the extravagantly gifted An-Ting Chang, pianist and instigator of the project, explained how she had been frustrated at the way classical music was cut up and used in plays, and she had wanted to find something better.

I was interested in seeing how the thing would work.  Would the actors speak at the same time as the music or in-between?  Would it be like melodrama?  In fact, a wide variety of things happened, including the piano being used as a prop in many different ways and a trill in Schubert’s D960 sonata representing the memory of a doorbell.

I felt that during the first three movements (Abortive, Caryl Churchill/Schubert; Other People’s Gardens, Kenneth Emson/Chopin; Portrait of a Lady, T.S. Eliot/Prokofiev and Chopin) what was happening for me was that the music was creating emotion by conditioned reflex and the plays were merely illustrating it.

The final movement  (Swan Song, Chekhov/Beethoven) was different and not just because we had a writer on the same level as the composers.  The way the play summed up the themes of isolation in someone at the end of his life and recapitulated pieces of Pushkin and Shakespeare in the same way the performance as a whole held within itself the separate plays and pieces of music–and at the end the old actor’s eyes, his ancient glittering eyes, were gay!–gave me a real sensory overload of delight.

Very definitely one to see, and it will be interesting to see what AT ConcertTheatre does next.

The Women of Troy, Blue Elephant Theatre 4pm April

April 4, 2012

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The first and main thing to say is that this production worked, which modern attempts at Greek tragedy most often don’t.  So much so indeed, that the apparent school party who made up most of the audience staged a mass walk-out after the reinterpretation of the killing of Astyanax as an enforced abortion.

At the beginning, as in the same company’s Hecuba, there was an effective stage presentation of Trojan glory and collapse.   After that, a lot of the action went on in semi-darkness, which is definitely un-Greek as an idea:  let him at least kill us in the light.  The characters on stage arranged themselves in static patterns that recalled at times David and at times Alma-Tadema.  In fact, the possibility of having any impressive choral movement was vitiated by most (but not all) of the stage being occupied by a raised dais.

But there were many stage devices employed more effectively.  Having the cast sing a vocalise, then one character sing the words, that at the end a triumphal two-part chorus after which Hecuba’s face alone illuminated in the midst of darkness reflected all the pain and tragedy that had passed.  Hecuba (Alice Brown) was very good throughout, while Kerrian Burton as a fey red-haired disengaged dissociated Cassandra made by far the best Cassandra I’ve ever seen, and in her first professional performance too.

I suppose I should have been irritated by the hand-me-down katiemitchellism of this production:  the sound of the roller door without the thing itself, for instance.  And the female character relaying the words of Talthybius who couldn’t run to a clipboard and so had to sort frantically through bits of paper instead.  But at least here we had a representation of Greek tragedy as being about something, even if feminist rant is not what Euripides had in mind.  I thought the adaptation–I can’t work out who did it from the programme, unless it was ‘Dramaturg Bobby Brook’–was highly effective, and made skilful use of rhyme where it helped.

Definitely worth seeing, and even staying for the whole 70 minutes.

See here for other Greek plays I know about in London.

Unmythable Blue Elephant Theatre 25 May

May 25, 2011

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I had a reasonable idea of what this would be like once I’d seen that there were three performers, none of them female.  It’s the kind of mildly-amusing, mildly-educational show that certainly used to tour schools up and down the country.  Aimed at ages 10-12 I’d say.  There weren’t any children in the first-night audience though; they mainly looked like friends of the cast.

So we had three guys dressed essentially in jeans and blue-ish T-shirts.  At the beginning, they welcomed the audiewnce enthusiastically and passed round bowls of olives.  Paul O’Mahony as Jason announced that we were The Argonauts and to show how heroic we were we should shout and cheer every time he said ‘The Argonauts’.  And we did.  The idea was that we were in a ship on our way to Colchis and they would relate legends to pass the time.

So they did.  There was certainly an impressive number of quick changes of role in the story of Demeter and Persephone, where five characters were played by two actors, switching all the time.  As tends to be the cazse in these things, I thought the representation of the story at journey’s end in Colchis worked best, because it was long enough to give some characterisation with Richard Darborne as a North Country Medea, Paul O’Mahony as a very narcissistic Jason, and Troels Hagen Findsen as Marlon Brando as Don Corleone as King Aetes.

You might say that £ 10 for an hour of three performers is rather short weight.  Certainly the two-night revival of Ovid’s Metamorphoses at the Greenwich Theatre offers the same kind of thing, but with  sets and costumes and music and women and glamour and money off as well (my views of an earlier outing here).

Ten Minutes of Disquiet (Blue Elephant Theatre, 5 June)

June 6, 2010

So I went to the Blue Elephant Theatre for this staging of (or based on) Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet.  It was described as a ‘work in progress’, which was already somewhat disquieting.  Then came the announcement that there was no seating, we were not allowed to lean against the walls and would have to move round.

What happened was that characters (wearing white shirts or blouses, black trousers or skirts, red ties or ties) disposed about the acting space fell under the spotlight and responded with monologues or brief scenes on the meaningless of modern life.  It was all rather like Neil LaBute, and there was no way my back was going to endure two hours of standing.  I made my way round the outside to a door encouragingly marked ‘Exit’, through the door to what looked like a cleaner’s cupboard, and from there through another door to the outside.

Apologies if I disturbed anyone in my escape…