Brighton Fringe 2011
The silent film actress Asta Nielsen died in 1972 / A performer doesn’t have a long life on stage / One of us has to die / Soon” are the first subtitles. Miss Carrota and Lady Pumpernickel interact with projected texts and images, using methods and movements found in silent films to create their own silent story on stage.
Both artists explore creativity through the whole body (including the mind, heart, face, eyes, mouth, nose, ears, teeth & tooth) by using a level of pure improvisation, picturesque story telling and dance movements. Asta Nielsen is Dead is their first collaboration.
An obvious and highly inspired group of professional performers greeted me as I walked into the space at the Komedia Studio at 11am on the 6th of May.
With a mixture of languages, backgrounds and training I was sure to be in for a treat.
I was not disappointed.
Clearly the company had been inspired by the silent films of the 1920’s in this, a ‘Pre-Laurel and Hardy’ romantic tragedy.
Adopting Bertolt Brecht’s use of subtitles and gesture, aspects of film nior and mime were used to create this farce of two tortured and over dramatic performers vying for the audiences attention as they gradually near the climax of the (short) story.
Though the performance has no deep, complicated narrative, it does take the audience on a some what absurd, fractured journey through the life and time of Asta Nielsen.
From the outset the sound score (Designed/Edited by Stephen Haben) engages the audience and acts as a complimentary force gently creating the background ambiance to an opening silhouetted image of two gothic figures sat upon a Black box.
The company have straight away achieved one of their goals by creating a atmosphere of which the audience is both set at unease and intrigued.
As the two performers lift their vials, they do so to expose the typically mine painted faces, bright eyes and wide smiles revealing naturally yellowed teeth (Fitting to the era of film).
The artistic decisions for both costume and make up are clearly deliberate and informed ones- much like ‘Une boite andalouse ‘ (recently seen by The Bootworks Theater Company’s Black Box Project at Brighton 2009).
[RE: ArtzZZ] present a staged performance rather than ‘an audience of one’/street theatre performance of the same nature which Bootworks do so well. The two shows would compliment each other perfectly at this years festival.
It is clear that this marvellousss piece of mine and physical theatre has been the labour of love for the creative team since last September- It is also important to say that one of the TWO performers Emily Florence Hutchings had only been rehearsing for three weeks with fellow performer Regina Fichtner due to the original performer Patrizia Carlota (original collaborator and partner) injuring herself.
Emily Florence Hutchings , who is still studying at a London University certainly holds her own opposite a obviously skilled and experianced physical performer in Regina Fitchner.
The three performers of the company have worked in a collaborative process with the Sound as an integeral part Patrizia called Stephen the sound designer the ”third unseen performer”.
Stephen Haben has been involved to the point where even the repeating of simple movements can be easily identified due to the clear and dedicated training from Regina Fichtner and Patrizia Carlota.
With no speech to lead the queing of the next movement, just goes to show that the three performers and Stephen have worked tirelesslyly to make it work as a seamless performance.
Whether you are of a performance background, familiar with the vintage black and white films of Buster Keaton & Charlie Chaplin’s ‘yester year’ or going to see this show because ‘you were handed a flier’ – the same feelings of intrigue, anticipation and enjoyment will be felt as this interesting and enjoyable journey through the elegant and soon to be forgotten generation of chalked faces, laced gloves and subtitled films will fill you with a sense of nostalgia and (ultimately) tragic humour.
On reflection what this show might benefit from is a little more dedication to the telling of the individual stories; specifically, the execution of the characters gestures and what they are ‘presenting’ to the audience. This in turn would make it easier for a less contemporary minded audience member able to process the familiar gestures.
Whether it be presenting a carrot or the coffin, we must ask why and what is its relevance. Will the general public make the links between object and gesture? Also, the exploration of levels and space in the performance would utilize the Whole space (understandably the size of stage/projection screen needs to be taken into consideration).
But with a stand-out performance by Regina and with the great support of Emily doing a wonderful job
Asta Nielsen is Dead is a very professionally rehearsed, executed performance. Keep an eye out for the Carrot!