Brighton Fringe 2008
Venue: Brighton College
Festival: Brighton Fringe
A site-specific promenade performance set in a timeless bygone age, where a boy murders his lover to preserve the perfect moment, and must face the guilt and punishment that follows.
Arquiem is another one of Periplum Theatre Company’s timeless and dramatic outdoor site-specific productions. Following hot on the heels of the critically acclaimed Bell, which premiered at the Wild Park last week, Arquiem fails to live up to the magic that incredible show managed to create
Arquiem has been touring for the past year, and is therefore the precursor to the more ambitious Bell. It is something of a shame that The Bell was shown first, as it was so full of high-octane excitement that anything else would fall short, but even taken out of this context it didn’t quite work.
The show was set in the suitably dramatic quad of the opulent Brighton College, its gothic chapel and stone curlicues lit up with orange light. The place was satisfyingly full, and the crowd milled about aimlessly, unsure of where the action would begin.
Suddenly a figure appeared on the headmaster’s balcony, and the tragic story of a boy who murders his lover to preserve the perfect moment began to play out. However, the only reason that I know that this was the story is because I read the entry in the Festival Programme. The nature of the site specific performance, the fairly quiet sound system and the huge crowd meant that much of the narrative was missed, and although the images created were beautiful, they did not tell the story well enough by themselves.
Another problem was the amount of seemingly pointless movement that constituted much of the show. Obviously a promenade performance must involve an element of walking around, but in the case of Arquiem, we weaved around the buildings of the college – trying to keep up with the medieval cart, at the same time as following the dialogue, which was hard to hear.
The final image of the boy was beautiful and moving, and the crowd around me took on the mob mentality all too readily – baying for his blood with frightening conviction.
Ultimately the idea behind the piece is a very imaginative and strong one, and the bits of the performance I managed to see properly and piece together were very affecting, it was just the physical and technical logistics of the show that let it down.