d(ARE) / Here Be Lions** (Print Room)

Posted: June 11, 2015 in Theatre

HERE-BE-LIONS-WEB-BANNERSMALLThis review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

It is difficult for most of us to imagine what it must be like to live with severe neurological difficulties, disconnected from the rest of the World. Dancer Sandrine Buring created d(ARE) to express her interpretation of the feelings of patients in a French children’s hospital where she worked alongside theatre maker Stephane Olry, who responded with a text which is presented here as a piece of immersive theatre. d(ARE) is performed by Burring in the Print Room’s studio space. She enters to dance playfully with a large, suspended bell jar which is swinging like a pendulum. When she enters the jar, two spotlights pick out her pale, semi-naked body as she writhes, claws at the glass, peers out and then sleeps. She becomes a stark and unsettling embodiment of isolation and despair. There is no sound accompaniment to the 25 minute dance, save for pitiable noises coming from within the jar. For the performance of Here Be Lions, the audience is ushered into the theatre’s main space, being used for the first time since the Print Room moved into what was the Coronet Cinema. We are asked to sit on deck chairs, laid out in a circle, amidst a thick theatre fog, which persists for the entire performance. This is something like sitting on an English beach in the middle of Winter and, although blankets are provided, it is extremely cold. The intent is to replicate the insular existence of patients at the hospital, but, once initial curiosity has passed, what should be an experience that is emotionally disturbing becomes no more than uncomfortable in a physical sense. There is one change in lighting, but, otherwise, we are asked to spend more than an hour staring at almost nothing. Olry’s writing, as translated by Neil Bartlett, is beautifully literate, but it is merely descriptive, telling no continuous story and developing no distinct characters. Repetition of points, also makes the piece longer than it needs to be. Hayley Carmichael, unseen throughout, interprets the text superbly and Phil Minton provides startling sound effects, but, nonetheless, interest wanes several times during the performance. It is questionable whether the fog yields much that could not have been achieved by dimmed lighting, in which case, maybe the effectiveness of both components of this production could have been heightened by combining them together in the same space without a break. As it is, a worthy project which has many strong qualities, suffers from a shortage of dramatic impact.

Performance date: 10 June 2015

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