FringeReview Scotland 2013
Proto type theatre with animator and illustrator Adam York Gregory, as well as the MMUIe laptop composing collective and lighting designer Rebecca MK Makus gave us 3 episodes of 7 of the 13 sections in development of a theatrical event based upon L’Etranger by Albert Camus. The event, presented as a theatrical concert, took us through aspects of the novel without using the narrative structure to tell us the story.
Each section had a title projected upon the side of the stage and then the performance was seen through a front gauze, upon which was projected animation. With 3 laptop musicians and 3 singers we are presented with a radical view of being on the outside. They are presented as a work in progress so we expect some disruption from a fully fledged piece. Each section is presented in song with the laptop ensemble in accompaniment. There is little by way of acting but there is a deal of theatrical presentation.
It was an evening where the audience is asked to be critical. Presented as part of the Rip It Up season at the Tramway this is a fantastic way of getting an audience to see a show for a fiver and then send in their views which forms part of the development of the final piece; brave or foolhardy? It may be hardly unique but it does make for an interesting evening.
I don’t really like to start with a negative but this is one that hit me squarely between the eyes. I read L’Etranger at University and loved it. It perhaps set me up in the wrong way as I expected more of the deliciousness of the novel. Its rich narrative and phraseology should give rise to a fantastic performance piece. I believe there is one in there but the problem for me was the text used. I understand the absurdist nature of Camus’ novel and that this is the theatrical jumping off point for this piece and it is far from a narrative retelling of the story the text was not up to the task of presenting such a classic to us in a new and exciting way; I struggled.
All of the performances from the 6 onstage were good with the material at hand. I did wonder at the beginning why the laptop musicians seemed to be using Xbox controllers but I managed to get that later. In terms of performance this was however a tad light. It was billed as a theatrical concert and for some of it I got lots of concert and little theatre from the performers.
Where I was far more impressed was in the design. The simplicity of the set behind the gauze helps us focus on the performers, almost like they are goldfish in a theatrical bowl. The little piece where they brought the little square of lights down from above was simple yet effective. It made me more aware of the structure being the thing. The projections onto the gauze were interesting though I was hoping for more than we got. I loved the redacted piece, the wolf and the blood. I am aware again that this has been done time and again; I think more can be done here and would hope more free reign is given and more radical thought employed.
As a performance in transit there is certainly a huge amount of good work on display. This was worth more than the fiver asked and the numbers in the audience demonstrated how engaging the idea was; over 70 stayed behind for a discussion which shows how engaged they were.
I left less satisfied by the whole but glad to have been part of it. I wanted to be able to say that I was looking forward to what will be made of it come the Autumn when it returns as a finished product but the truth of it was that I didn’t stay behind because it didn’t fully engage me. The major plank that wasn’t fitting was the script and the narrative. I was not looking for more than a passing nod to the source but the banality I felt that was part of the words used left me cold. I can recognise the value of something that sits outside my comfort zone but believe this needs more contact with the novel or a complete detachment from it. Whatever happens I would look again at the words being used and question whether they celebrate the ideals from Camus or are likely to drive people away from the text in another art form.