Adelaide Fringe 2011
A couple set the table, sit and share a meal and leave separately. At the same time a man and woman fall madly in love, the man falls out of love and the woman departs. This tale of love found and lost is surefootedly told through Pablo Neruda’s incantatory poems set to movement and music.
We are enticed to dine within by a sultry red satin lingerie-clad woman reclining atop a piano. The music playing is by a Siren tempting us in to savour what is to come.
An erotic and sensual experience is expected. But the half-naked slab of man lying on the stripped table and the laying out of dining places at opposing pointy ends of a square table, so the diner’s legs are splintered, resets what is to be expected.
And so begins the incanting of a passionate affair and the decanting of its demise through the juxtaposition of a projected backdrop scene of a dressed couple dining in a civil manner filmed from the ceiling’s point of view and bare-chested and lingerie clad actors delivering the poetry in motion on the floor across and around a bare table.
This juxtaposition is an appropriate homage to Neruda who linked the humdrum material daily rituals of life and its cloaks of civility that we take for granted to the ebullience, joy, passion and sacrifice that exists underneath and within that material appearance.
It is also appropriate for the poetic delivery to be matched with movement and musical lyricism because Neruda is most famous for his Odes and the Greek ode was set to music and to dance.
Whilst the movement wove with the words, music and competently expressed the emotional landscape, the actors verbal delivery felt like a two tone affair. While their physical connections throbbed, it did not feel as though the actors poured themselves into the elemental essence of Neruda’s words that bulge with connections and associations that join these lovers to the stars and to all the things of the earth including that something has to die if we are to live. There needs to be attention given to this being a song of expiation (“the sad wind slaughters the butterflies”) as much as it is a song of exultation.
In terms of the space, it felt too expansive for such an intimate encounter and in terms of staging it would have served the piece better if there was more mood enhancing lighting (e.g. not just one colour) and better use of lighting. There were a couple of key scenes where the lighting appeared incongruent with the words and movement.
Overall it is poetry in motion performed proficiently.