FringeReview Scotland 2014
We enter a derelict baths set up for the performance and take our seats in the shallow end. The performance begins with 6 “lads” having a laugh and sending one of them off to try and win the hand of the local Princess. That he is unable to is down to his unimpressive set of skills and the madness of a King and Queen, along with a jester who have imprisoned their own daughter in a caged prison. It is then down to another of the “lads” to win her and with his spending every night outside her window listening to her entreaties for Hyperion to enter her spirit, he eventually gets her out the prison, they fall in love and escape the tyranny under which she was held.
As we entered the space, on a warm and balmy evening the coolness of the venue is its first plus. The stage is very deep in front and the whole of the baths are bathed in abandoned chic and theatrical trickery – mainly lights. The appearance of the 6 lads/young people bring us into 2014 and off we go as the mythical is interspersed with the modern day.
Let me start with the positives. I liked this as an experience and would certainly chase out the group and/or Romanian culture with glee again. The experience – perhaps a new form of immersion – was what got me through this though. I loved the idea, was captured by the venue and just adored the idea of boldly using the arts to counter the bilge of UKIP et al.
Performances were patchy but on the whole good. The problem they all faced though was that the adaptor, Alexa Ispas needs to take the director, Alexa Ipsas out for a drink and a serious conversation. It was a beautiful piece of work but needs a firmer directorial hand upon the tiller.
The adaptation was not without its faults. The crudeness of the modern day language jarred alongside the beauty of the poetry. The natural direction employed with the modern day text and structure was in contrast to the spoken poetry. It seemed like there was little confidence in the poetry and there needed to be this nod to present day; there does not. The poem and the story work so well that either the translations should go wholeheartedly into 2014 or the whole lads stuff be ditched. Also why were we given women dressed up as lads? It’s 2014 we could have had all the young people performing in the sex with which they identify and lost nothing of the piece.
Also having a lot of the action at the front of the stage meant some of us saw little, if anything at all of it. There was a massive stage behind it that could have been used with better effect.
This poem is epic but not unperformable and the obvious abilities of the cast could have better been used to “perform” rather than speak the piece. The voiceovers were well done but a bit out of the piece and not integral. I would have much preferred the actors taking these lines as performance and we would have been more involved in the central storyline.
The set was, for me, an intriguing junkyard that unfortunately added little. It was all saved by the glorious back drop of the venue itself and the ambience created within. The key area of the caged prison for the Princess with the birdcage in the corner worked very well. Beyond that it just didn’t match the beauty of the poetry for me.
Between the voiceovers, smoke and flashes for God and the video section the technical back up was there in abundance. I particularly loved the video sequence and whilst it may be taking a risk with the Benny Hill theme tune it was well done and highly enjoyable.
Overall this was about the entire experience which I would have no problem in recommending. The quality of the acting, the staging of it in the main and the ideas behind it worked tremendously well. I would suggest though that the areas for development are improved if it manages a second run.