Edinburgh Fringe 2013
A stunningly crafted piece of theatre that fuses Gainsbourg, Shakespeare, theatrical and romantic “first times”. This is The Beginning.
The three performers are already ‘in the wings’ but in plain view. There are no secrets here, all is and will be revealed. A camera projects a section of the props/stage managers’ desk onto a screen above the stage and handwritten sheets of paper are added from the inch-thick pile introducing the show, sponsors, acts and scenes. Eventually more and more obscure and surreal notes and props are added to heighten the sense of confusion that develops over the hour.
From the ‘wings’ the performers make opening announcements and draw us, their audience, into their world. Take a moment to turn off our phones, to check for the exits, to meet our neighbours, and the first allusion to A Midsummers Night Dream, inviting us to take a moment and decide if we are likely to want to leave, thus looking like an ass.
The Beginning is a theatrical piece by Michael Pinchbeck, written in 2012 to precede his 2011 play The End and, completing the trilogy, a new piece The Middle. Each work alludes to a Shakespeare play weaving personal stories about his relationship with theatre and people. The major theme that comes through in The Beginning is falling in love with the first thing you see upon waking – Titania with Bottom, the actor with theatre and Serge Gainsbourg with Jane Birkin. Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson is a recurring source of inspiration throughout The Beginning along with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Beginning is all about starting out, the creative process, the hour before curtain up; a love letter to theatre.
The cast of three, Michael Pinchbeck, Nicki Hobday and Ollie Smith are wonderful in their roles, playing themselves, each other, no one and everyone. My one criticism is that they were off mic periodically and in sharp contrast to their dialogue on mic. Perhaps that was deliberate?! The set is sparce, open, hiding nothing, adding to the sense of honesty. They perform largly in bare feet, and utilise ‘found’ items to represent other characters. There is nothing visually fancy about this play and that is one of the most delightful aspects of this totally enthralling piece of contemporary theatre.