Click here!


Across the Festivals...August 22, 2010

Michael Cox reviews Next, The Gospel at Colonus and Lip Service while briefly speaking about Caledonia.

A bit of a marathon today. Four productions, all different in every way a production can be, yet with a common theme of death. Sadly for my feet, all four were spread throughout the city, making me have to walk ridiculous amounts between shows. With all of the sitting I’ve done, perhaps the miles of walking were a good thing.

First up was Next (****), an autobiographical monologue by actor and writer Kiki Kendrick. The play recounts, sometimes in horrifically funny descriptions, the absolute hell that faces actors when auditioning for roles. Subtitled ‘Death by Audition’, the play certainly highlights the horrible small deaths of rejection actors subject themselves to in order to just get a part plugging detergent in an advert.

Perhaps the production plays a bit better to those with firsthand experience of the audition process, but the hour-long production is a frequently funny and highly spirited account of Kendrick’s many failed attempts at getting herself in the spotlight. The production is earnest, and even at its most outrageous, it all feels genuine.

It also has a brilliant performance by Kendrick. Rather than gunning for revenge, she gives an honest look at the many different horrible scenarios she has found herself in. However, the play matures in the second half by adding a layer of self doubt, looking at the effect acting has on relationships and the personal sacrifices artists have to make just to serve their craft.

The end result is a heartfelt production that is as much a love letter to the art of performance as it is a funny criticism on how ridiculous, even exploitive, a career in acting can be.

Next up was a play I’ve been looking forward to for some time: The Gospel at Colonus (***). At its heart is a rather simple concept: take Oedipus at Colonus and turn it into a church sermon about death. With bright colours, spirited performances and rousing music, the production literally transforms into a church service.

This isn’t nearly as farfetched as some may think. After all, Western theatre began as religious ceremonials worshipping Greek gods, and there have always been close ties between religious practice and theatre performance.

And the fact of the matter is that it all works very well. There is a kind of logic in the reinterpretation of this version of the play into a Christian parable (even if the unedited original wouldn’t fit so snugly), and the choral music adds power of a mental and spiritual level to the whole thing.

And yet, while many felt their hearts soar out of the theatre, I myself felt a bit grounded. Don’t get me wrong. I was impressed by the whole thing. I loved the voices, the epic feel of the production and the entire score, but none of it stirred my soul, and I spent most of its 2 ½ hour running time waiting for takeoff. Maybe expectation killed it a bit for me, or perhaps the fact that I have been to a few services similar to this (and have seen The Blues Brothers countless times) made the experience feel unoriginal, even if it was impressive and sounded great.

What was stirring was Becki Gerrard’s Lip Service (***). Much has been written about this piece, so I don’t feel like I’m giving much away in saying that Gerrard spends the entire running time completely naked while she recounts her life and family heritage.

What transpires is a rather touching account of one’s roots, looking at how our looks and behaviour are inherited by those from our past, many of whom we will never have met. Unlike a lot of recent production that have incorporated nudity, her nakedness also has a dramaturgical function and isn’t a coy gimmick.

The production may not be completely original but it all comes across as sincere, and Gerrard has great presence. She has created an interesting piece and is certainly a talent worth following.

I want to write much more about NTS’s current entry into the Edinburgh International Festival, Caledonia (***), so I shall save most of my comments for an upcoming post. But I will say that I have read all of the major reviews, which have been all over the spectrum, and funnily enough I agree with every one of them. It is messy and ridiculous, and it is compelling and well executed. It’s also an oddball production: it’s a tragedy that wants to make its audience laugh, and yet it’s a comedy that wants to make its audience cry. I think it’s worth checking out, even if it is far short of its own expectations and is riddled with flaws. But more on that later in the week.

That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow sees me at Stripped before attending the Traverse Live transmission. Another marathon for me then.

Tags: theatre

Comments: 0 (Add)

To post a comment, you need to sign in or register. Forgotten password? Click here.

Find a show

Search the site

Find us on …

Find us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterFind us on YouTube

Click here!