mon 14/10/2019

LIMF: La Maldición De Poe, Purcell Room/ Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl, Barbican Pit | reviews, news & interviews

LIMF: La Maldición De Poe, Purcell Room/ Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl, Barbican Pit

LIMF: La Maldición De Poe, Purcell Room/ Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl, Barbican Pit

Myths are innately more intriguing in theatre than sermons

The Curse of Poe: Filled with gory corpses and spectral lighting and awful bloodthirsty characters

The up - which I’m sorry not to have reported on before it ended last night - was the Spanish puppetry troupe Teatro Corsario, who made their hour’s strut and fret upon the stage in the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room a pleasingly diverting wee horror tale, La Maldición de Poe (The Curse of Poe), filled with gory corpses and spectral lighting and awful bloodthirsty characters.

Mashing up three Poe stories - The Black Cat, The Murders in the Rue Morgue and the ditty Annabel Lee - the little team of five came up with an impressively populated narrative where Edgar fell in love with sick Annabel in a graveyard, his grandparents were bitten to death by a psychopathic monkey, and a vicious cat caused the accidental axe killing by a drunk of his blameless wife, and his subsequent drowning. Annabel died lonely in the graveyard. Edgar got horribly tortured. And so the carnage went on, with the amusing little figures moving so freely that I peered for strings and sticks in vain, and eventually discovered they were an idiosyncratic form of Bunraku glove puppet.

The kitchen story of puppetry is often more interesting than the results but what all the manual skills need to be focused on is fantastical tale-telling of a particular bent that the artificiality of the puppets enhances and redoubles. Animals are easy, because they’re lovable and their nastiness is funny; harder to do is to fill the “humans” with character, and here the giggling fumblings of young Edgar and Annabel in the churchyard had a real sweetness and affectingness, so that Annabel’s simple tableau, lying dying alone in the cold, made an impact about the terribleness of a young girl’s end.

I don’t think the final tableau, of a huge shapeless figure of Death (the one figure actually inhabited by a human) dragging Edgar and Annabel into one grave, had the ghostly shock they sought, but still La Maldición de Poe was definitely one of the better productions that I’ve seen at LIMF over the years, if not quite up there in epic metaphorical power with Buchinger’s Boot Marionettes or the Tbilisi Marionette Theatre in the past.

Charlotte_Ford_LIMF11Given a longer run this month is Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl, at the Barbican Pit, where two performers have attempted to do a story about natural forces overcoming a stupefyingly dull office where the staff are eaten by wild creatures and the walls crumble under the weight of jungle growth. This show had rave reviews from the Edinburgh Fringe last summer, and though plenty of others were laughing last night, it didn’t raise a single smile from me during its hour, sad to say.

Partly it’s because the office of “Convenience Foods” looks as if it was made out of a white cardboard box, ready to collapse at any point. Its walls and ceiling may just have had too much use. But there’s also the little matter of the execution of the theme, which was originally inspired by the imaginatively disturbing idea of revisiting Chernobyl to find plants growing through blasted ruins. What should be epic and weird is disappointingly pat, a worthy ecology sketch expanded past natural length. Unlike with Teatro Corsario, this is not a show that tricks the mind by tricking the eye - all the joins are showing as animals and plants appear.

One also has to weather quite a lot of not-marvellous physical theatre by the two characters, Geoff Sobelle and Charlotte Ford, trying hard to portray the tedium of a petty life without being tedious - and they fail, unfortunately. The lanky Sobelle works a too well-worn line of physical mime between Mr Bean and Basil Fawlty, but Ford (pictured above) is an attractive performer, adjusting her terrified secretary stance with desperation to look more authoritative, and heroically sucking her Wotsits so as not to make a crunching noise and enrage her sociopathic colleague.

The mime is intercut with speech - a mistake, in my view, as it undercuts the effort put into the physical language and the text is not well written. The dear old social message of natural forces getting their own back on humans seems too often to lead to more predictable and limited theatre than a fancy about supernatural forces taking over. Myths are innately more intriguing in theatre than sermons. I’m hopeful that other shows in LIMF this month will feed my prejudice about that.

The dear old message of natural forces getting their own back on humans makes more limited theatre than a fancy about supernatural forces taking over

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