Sunday 23 October 2011

The Love of the Nightingale @ Theatro Technis, Camden

Entering the space, bodies litter the floor, moaning, writhing.  In the centre is a tall, cage-like column structure, phallic and imposing.  The bodies move with an alien quality, muscles glimmering in the subtle lighting.

This opening was a springboard for an intensly physical performance of feminist playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker's work, which adapts the Greek legend of Tereus's rape of Philomela - here performed as a tryptic with The Threepenny Opera and Antigone by the Fourth Monkey Theatre Company.  This was an often horrific production - the rape itself was especially shocking.  Physically this was dynamic and visceral, the actors so close the audience could literally smell and touch them.  The constructed set was underused, but the performances were at once base and animalistic yet sensitive to the subject.

For the cast, this was an incredibly exposing production.  In a literal sense, the costumes were minimal, the tribal feel contradicting the Greek setting yet heightening the barbaric nature of the plot.  It also emphasised the physicality of the show, the girls particularly were objectified yet frighteningly powerful in such an overtly feminist play. 

On the other hand, it was exposing in terms of acting ability.  At times the acting felt over-exaggerated to an A-level drama standard, though the central three protagonists coped well with the difficult subject matter.  On the flip side, it's an extremely ambitious undertaking for a young cast to connect with such a challenging text and though they sometimes lacked credibility, their efforts were commendable.

It's impressive that the feminist agenda of the playwright did not overshadow the power of the direction.  It may have bordered slightly on pretentious but it was nonetheless a captivating production.