Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Continuing on Artifice

I went to see Zosia Wand's new play, Quicksand, at the Dukes in Lancaster last night. It's billed as a love story, in fact a tale of 'forbidden love', which I don't think does it justice. For me the most interesting relationship in the play was not between the young 'lovers' (which was touching then startling) but between a middle-aged woman and her 'home help-cum-companion". The dependency between them was subtle (the actress who played the companion was the shining star of the production) and uneasy, complex and poignant. Maybe it's a sign of my age, but the burgeoning love between the younger man and woman didn't engage me hugely.

Or maybe it's a sign of the actors' ages. It's a far greater stretch for younger actors to embody characters convincingly than older actors with more experience to draw one. Perhaps as my companion suggested the younger the actor the more they are relying on talent rather than acquired skill/experience. Talent being a far rarer thing.

The other element that grasped me was the difference in power between the internal scenes and the external scenes. The internal ones held all the drama, the intensity that I love in theatrical productions. The neat use of the round - switching from one 'corner' to the other to flick between kitchens - heightened the entrapment. It didn't work so well when we were asked to be outside: either on a hilltop or at the shore. The expanse of the Bay, its dangers and history, were all explained to us through the courtship and subsequent scenes, but I didn't feel it. Maybe the round wasn't the best device for this, maybe the set didn't allow for it. Maybe the switch between the realism of kitchen/table/mixing bowls and the abstraction of rock/floor tiles/picnic rug couldn't take us with it.

Which got me thinking about theatre and artifice. My tastes leaning far more towards the awareness of artifice. I like being asked to engage with a story through surrealimsm or obvious pretence, so that declaration becomes part of the emotional impact of the performance. By revealing artifice it is removed. I'm sure someone somewhere else has been far more eloquent on that. If so, please let me know where...

It brought up my thinking/feeling towards puppets and physical theatre (as discussed yesterday) - and how much easier I find that is to engage wholeheartedly (and I use that word advisedly) with a performance when I am projecting stuff on to it rather than just receiving an actor's interpretation. There's something strenuous for me in fusing that distance of stage and audience. Physical thatre and puppetry (spoken word stuff to an extent) don't allow my brain to engage; they require a far more visceral/emotional engagement, the medium is some how more direct, by requiring me to play part of the conjuring.

Which feels unfair to put in a post about a play. A little like comparing a piece of music with a poem.

So I'll end by repeating what I began with - the older relationship was the Quicksand. The kitchen table the island. It's worth seeing to watch the two women cling to their raft as the tide turns.

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