Brighton Fringe 2012
This is Romanian story for the whole family, performed by Eurythmists, with accompanying music and narration. It is the tale of Prince Harap Alb, who is deceived by his evil servant Smoothface, whose aim is to win the Red Emperor’s daughter. He meets five extraordinary fellows. Will they keep their promises to help?
Brenda Ratcliffe narrates the tale of Harap Alb In a production in which choreography and directing shared. All performers portrayed more than one character with the exception of Tatiana Halacova who played The Prince.
At last a company that has turned the Friends’ Meeting House into a worthy theatre space! A backdrop (light blue) and some proper lights transformed the carpeted space into a venue ready for an artistic performance, and finally made a virtue of the wonderful natural silence inherent in this space. Ready for what comes…
The well known Romanian story of Harap Alb meaning ‘Black-White’, is presented using the art of eurythmy. Eurythmy. Now, what is that? Let me quote from their web site.
"The instrument of eurythmy is the whole human being, in which the entire world of creation is represented, can be experienced and brought to expression. We all recognise the value of movement for health and well-being, and if, as in eurythmy, it is filled with meaning, movement can enliven our senses and imaginations."
It has also been characterised as "visible gesture". The likes of Peter Bridgmont in his "Liberation of the Actor" and "Spear Thrower" have attempted to explore hidden gesture in drama and here we have a eurthymy group that have boldly brought this art of movement into the world of story performance and dramatic narrative. Beautiful music played on piano accompanies a narrator whose way of speaking is actually an integral part of the choreography we see realised on stage. In Theatre Ad Infinitum’s award-winning Translunar Paradise, we saw a precise interplay between sound, movement and story, and here we have the same. The eurythmists move as both individual part and collective whole. Sometimes it is the ensemble that speaks, sometimes an individual character, or a sentence in the told story emerges and we find our attention focused on that.
I’d venture to say we saw a kind of breathing on stage and it felt as if our attention as audience was essential to it. Here, the audience are an organ of sight, and I felt their attention strongly in this particular performance.
The story itself contains quests, villains and heroes, but there are deeper motifs and symbols as well. To expound upon them would be to spoil the delight. But the story is only occasionally obscured by the movement, which is a language we begin to learn as the performance unfolds. At first we may be a little bemused, relying for our understanding more of the words of the narrator. But as the hour progresses, the words recede a bit and we actually rely more on what we are seeing, which begins to create inner pictures, more or less known to us. This story performance becomes a catalyst to our own imagination. At one point I observed myself watching what was occuring onstage but simutaneously being aware of an inner story, a moving landscape of pictures, my own version of the story, that was both being stimulated to life by the stage work, but also was my own active reponse to what I was seeing.
There’s humour and playfulness in the tale, there’s tension and a wish for the good to prevail over the evil. The costumes are beautiful, the lighting simple and effective. The eurythmists are among the best I have seen, they move not only through air, but with it.
If I have one criticism it is that the facial expressions of the performers are somewhat inconsistent. Some are in "acting mode", some have the neutrality of front-facing dancers, as one often sees in ballet. I would suggest a rehearsal in physical stillness, a rehearsal of facial theatre. Which is it to be – expression or impassiveness, allowing only the bodily gesture to communicate?
This was such a conscious performance, but not a consciousness of the head, a consciousness of the physical, realised in performance art, thus revealing the invisible that we intuit as always present. This was a synergy between voice and movement, lighting and music. And, do you know what? It was a good story as well, finely told and beautifully acted.
You’ll need to meet it with your own activity. You can’t sit back and watch it like television. Meet it as it tries to meet you, and that meeting will be something unique and special.