Camden Fringe 2011
Tales from the Deep is an ambitious and thoughtful storytelling experiment re-interpreting the poetry of Pierre Louys with physical and devised components.
Many challenges are tackled when interpreting a poet with an esoteric body of work, especially when translating the subtext for an audience a millennia out of context. Lifeguard Productions enthusiastically tackles a task potentially full of pitfalls with admirable enthusiasm and evidence of innovative vision.
Four female cast members took to the stage in rambunctious spirit attempting to discern the ‘place’ of women in modern day society. For those unfamiliar with the work of Louys: he is famed for The Tomb of Bilitis, the ‘first-hand’ account of a woman entering a forest and uncovering her base nature and sexuality. Louys impossibly emulated a journey of sexual discovery of a different gender, Tales From The Deep probes whether the voice of women is similarly being stifled by a faked authorship.
Tales from the Deep could be too easily derided as a feminist romp, signalling the ambition of Lifeguard Productions in itself. Admittedly, there were rather worrying instances of sputtering females drawing inspiration from shallow sources, celebrating being ‘Born This Way’ to a Lady Gaga song being one of these instances. The other song featured, ‘Vogue’ by Madonna, didn’t seem particularly adventurous either.
The production trod a dangerous border between the satirical and troubling lack of vital self-awareness. Performers Farah Merani, Ashleigh Chedale, Ashleigh Valintine and Leanna Wiggington, however, ignited the production. Parts of the show could have been easily dubbed unimaginative and sluggish without the confident ensembles’ feats of physical exertion, endurance and general flexibility. A scene portraying body insecurities became unsettling viewing as the cast torturously grab, tear and pick at their bodies for a prolonged period of time.
In a frequently visited terrain director Lowri Jenkins, despite shaky beginnings, achieved an interesting devised piece tackling the imposed limits of expression. The resulting dissatisfaction created when a woman, or any member of the human race, feels at odds with an illusion created by the media and societal expectations was often affecting. The director’s large vision was undoubtedly restricted in a short running time (approx 45mins) However, there were no compromises in the efforts, ambition and cooperation of the four talented and expressive performers.