mirrorshard: (Rose Theatre)
[personal profile] mirrorshard
Through the kind offices of [livejournal.com profile] webcowgirl, I saw this last night.

The title was a bit offputting, but it proved (not really surprisingly) not to be a pretentiously gothy and overpolished job after all. The premise is simple, but ambitious - 16 scenes done in an order determined by the audience beforehand. I got there too late (thanks to the Central Line) to shuffle objects around in the bar, but I'm assured it was fun. (Relatedly - I was impressed and slightly surprised at the degree of audience investment & enthusiasm. It could be a habitual Southwark Playhouse audience... my cynical first reaction was that the actors had awfully large families. But it was a good play.)

The really impressive part was in how well the actors managed the scene changes. They were doing all the SM work themselves, and every scene needed up to half a dozen props and/or costume changes. Given that they only found out what order the scenes would be in when the audience finished mucking around in the bar when they did it (see comments), they did it really smoothly and energetically. It helped, of course, that the floor was marked out in different colours of SM's tape, and that the projection screen flashed up the number of the scene before each one.

The projection screen formed most of the set, generally with a variety of indefinably Welsh backgrounds. (I'm fairly sure I recognised part of Swansea there.) The only thing that struck me as rather off was a pair of angel wings, projected behind an actor on a stepladder - they were four inches off registration, so that one tip was clipped by the edge of the screen. That might have been deliberate, since they were also a tiny bit crooked and done in the classic slightly-mistuned-TV style, fuzzy and flickering and strewn with analogue artifacts. They did also deliberately do something which I'd normally consider a complete no-no, which is to have the actor standing in front of them lit by an off-centre profile lamp, giving a hard-edged shadow on the screen, but on top of the shoulder joint of one wing rather than in between them. The final effect was extremely disturbing and worrying, which I suspect was precisely what they intended.

"Disturbing" covers most of the play, in fact - it was a lot of hard work, continually forcing you to reevaluate your assumptions about the last few lines in an effort to work out what's going on. Gently, though, with none of that depressing twist-in-the-tale shock-revelation business. My mind definitely feels exercised. Interestingly, it felt quite science-fictional in that respect, with the parallel engagement and suspension of critical thinking about the action. Of course, I'd still maintain that treating that as a specifically SFnal trope is a case of genre exceptionalism, but that's a rant for another time.

I'm impressed with everyone involved with the production - it's not just an actor's showpiece, but a director's too, given that any of the scenes could have come first and the one which did was riveting from the get-go. The only criticism I could possibly make is that I'd have chosen a more matte paint for the stage (one actor's white top was reflected in it from time to time), but that's down to the venue not the production company.
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