fri 05/06/2020

Re:Creating Europe, MIF Rewind review - last year's burning issue semi-dramatized | reviews, news & interviews

Re:Creating Europe, MIF Rewind review - last year's burning issue semi-dramatized

Re:Creating Europe, MIF Rewind review - last year's burning issue semi-dramatized

Ivo van Hove engages British and Dutch actors to debate the urgent question of 2019

Bart Slegers and Christopher Eccleston share a monologue in two languagesAll images by Joel Fildes

Are we really past all this? From Ivo van Hove's 2019 polyphony of opinions and reflections down the centuries, so much has gone into the oven on a low heat while more Brits discover that "better together" in the European Union might be a better catchphrase than "take back control". The flames will flare up again as the government finds it has no better way of mastering the Brexit problem than it has the C-19 crisis which has so ruthlessly exposed its unpreparedness. Still, it seems like another world in which questions of European identity were the main issue. But to be honest van Hove's assemblage of fine actors in July 2019, resurrected by its host, Manchester International Festival, for 24 hours over the weekend, was never great theatre, just good education, the perfect hour and ten minutes to play to schools around the country.

Michael Morpurgo has filmed a short introduction from home replacing his prefatory words last year: prosaic, unremarkable, truthful. Then we're back to the quickfire tapestry of quotations in English, French, German and Dutch, shared between four of our own finest actors - Juliet Stevenson, Adjoa Andoh, Christopher Eccleston, Lemm Sissay - and members of van Hove's top Amsterdam ensemble, the former Toneelgroep Amsterdam now known as the ITA-ensemble. They'll be familiar to those who were stunned by his Roman Tragedies and his amalgam of Shakespeare's Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III as Kings of War; we even get to hear the superlative Hans Kesting reprise Richard's recognition of total isolation. Not a good thing, van Hove reminds us, belatedly juxtaposing Ayn Rand's egotism with Donne's "No man is an island". Juliet Stevenson and Adjoa Andoh Some of the counterpoint can be telling, above all when Stevenson declaims Margaret Thatcher's diverse attitudes to the European project while Andoh alongside her (pictured above) makes us realise the excellence of David Lammy's plea in the Commons; later Andoh disconcertingly takes up Ann Widdicombe's screeching in the European Parliament at a higher pitch. Humour, then, isn't entirely absent, but this is an earnest, schematic mesh of voices. It takes us back, of course, to why what became the Union was such a necessary idea in 1945, chiefly in Konrad Adenauer's powerful words; I'd have liked to hear more from Simone Veil, survivor of the camps who became such a forceful leader of the European Parliament, though she gets the last word. It also points out the disparate European responses to the refugee crisis (that seems even longer ago now, but equally the issue won't be going away).

With plentiful screen footage and a varying soundtrack (parts of which can't be played now owing to copyright reasons), this is actually something that could be played out now with the actors delivering from home. Does it gain much from being on stage? Not enough, despite the uniformly strong delivery. Was it worth an hour plus of anyone's time? Yes, if you didn't mind the didactic nature of the beast. Meanwhile, you might like to reflect that after VE Day on Friday, a displaced UK Bank Holiday (not that we're going to notice), comes Europe Day on the Ninth.

Andoh disconcertingly takes up Ann Widdecombe's screeching in the European Parliament at a higher pitch

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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