FringeReview Scotland 2013
Presented as part of the Arches’ Annual Live Performance festival, Behaviour 2013, this is a performance that begins with two performers introducing us to a puppet engaged in what appears to be a sexual act on top of some rocks. We are then taken on a journey into a past where two women are left on the planet with one of them due to give birth – a Gift from their Gods. They declare war on each other as they disagree over how their female offspring ought to be raised and reintroduced into a male world. This discourse of how woman should either protect their body or provoke with it leads to the destruction of the planet and what would appear to be a very strange creature as a result.
As a piece of theatre this certainly provoked discussion as it was filled with plenty of verbal exchanges likely to make you ponder. It was however densely packed and as we were digesting one such exchange out blared the music, on went the hats and one of the characters was left pondering. I thought that if you stripped down some of the dialogue to the witty, profound and insightful you could take me along far more comfortably than I was. Within this piece there were some decent lines and observations but the package sometimes made it feel obscurely told.
Both actors – Lesley Asare and Claire Willoughby – were well up to the task and some of the facial asides and the relationship between them was both solid and utterly convincing. The wittiness of some of the posing and interplay between them as a couple and the audience gave this piece a great deal to commend it. What they struggled with was the dialogue being at times overly layered leading to complex issues being lost in how many words were being used to over sell it. At times I was beginning to feel preached at rather than credited with the intelligence to work it out.
The major issue though I had came with the design within the small space. The decision to have the central rockery centre stage forced some of the action to the sides. Not much of an issue until you are in a very compact space where sight lines makes it difficult to see what exactly is going on. It also led to some uncomfortable crosses and key scenes played out to one side – the wrong one – of the pillars. I did find this a shame because much of the side stage work was making people in front of me laugh, giggle and smile; I felt a little excluded.
I always attend performances like these with some trepidation; the description in the programme of 75 minutes on rape and the destruction of the planet made me nervous. The reality however was that this was highly thought provoking and performed in such a way that, despites its flaws, it made me stop and consider. As the programme notes tell us we should look again. As a performance piece that has looked at the issue of rape and the destruction of planet I could flippantly claim it has no equal but what Monfrooe has done is take risks for which she ought to be commended; that some of them need tightening up is no shame and ought to be applauded.
It certainly adds something new to the cannon of work that Monfrooe has been developing – much of it with a great degree of admiration – and I reflected afterwards that I was truly glad I had seen it. I had entered with little hope but as Monfrooe has said herself, hope gets you nowhere.
It was a production with many in the audience who were appreciative and enthusiastic about the piece. It created much to be discussed and as we all exist in the world of live theatre, I hope my contribution here, won’t be missed…