Edinburgh Fringe 2014
"She was left face to face with the brutal truth – she is no longer loved and is abandoned. What can you do if you love somebody with every particle of your body? Without him, the air she breathes suffocates her… A phone call … breathe… On the other end of the phone is the voice of her lover. Still she can live, breathe. Another call – one more breath … and then, on the phone just short beeps…"
How do we cope with the nightmare of being abandoned? The phone becomes an obsessional object as we wait for it to ring, drowning in wishful thinking.
In this very physical piece from Moscow Armenian Theatre, the themes of abandonment and facing harsh and even unbearable truth are explored and shown. Here we have Cocteau’s work brought to the Fringe. Many people are unaware that Jesn Cocteau wrote plays, though Ingrid Bergman once starred in this, and it was made into a radio play for the BBC in 1998.
Zita Badalyan performs this with every inch of her body and soul, and her angst and pain, pitching into obsession, is affecting and often painful to behold, for very good theatrical reasons. She treats her body with reckless abandon as all focus is on the ringing of that phone, and a reconnection with a lost, but brutally needed love. There are many striking moments in this piece, set in a room also left to chaos, as our performer delivers a monlogue that reconstructs a story and shares the inner emotional journey. The atmosphe is ghostly in places, very real and earthly in others. We are presented with, and skilfully immersed in a very emotional landscape, intense, sad, hopeful and sometimes grim – a boudoir for the rejected, living in desperate hopefulness.
The strength here is the physicality and the inventive use of a second performer who pulls the strings of her emotions. I was reminded of the art of William Arkle. Tossed upon emotional seas we do not control, how can we hold our own in such turmoil? We are left with a view of connection that often eludes our grasp, of a love that can destroy even as it warms.
The excellent performer delivers the monologue with commitment and plenty of well realised texture. What is lost is clarity. This is a text not delivered in her native language and she tends to be over-delivering in places, and the words feel crammed in. If the piece is to be delivered so, then some dramaturgy is needed within the current length of the play. The production is a spectacle, visually arresting and powerful. The words are often a bit lost and this is something that needs further work. With such an excellent actor, I feel less willl be more in terms of the script.
This production has the potential to be truly outstanding. It is very much on the way to being that. As it is, it is a very creditable, innovative and sometimes shattering rendition of this play.