Pros: Imaginative and fresh approach on the old motive of generation conflict. A cast of very likeable father-child duos.
Cons: Not for those with a strong dislike of foreign language performances and/or subtitled performances.(But give it a try anyway!)
Presented by Barbican Theatre and LIFT Festival, She She Pop invite us to witness an unique and highly unusual theatre experiment. Three actors take their fathers on stage to explore their father-child relationship using William Shakespeare’s King Lear as a background for their own small family tragedies.
She She Pop are a performance group based in Berlin and founded by theatre students in 1998. They regularly tour to international venues and perform in German with English subtitles. They see themselves not as actors, but as a collective who work without a playwright or director in order to develop their own perspective on the material together. Since their first performance of Testament in 2010 the group has travelled the world and performed this production in theatres from Brasil to Japan with great success.
In collaboration with their fathers, She She Pop explore the timeless generation conflict between King Lear and his daughters and compare it with their own experiences. It seems as if nothing has changed since King Lear asked his daughters who loved him the most. Even though there is no kingdom to divide there are still a lot of questions to answer before the changeover of generation can take place. Who will inherit the original print of Roy Liechtenstein in father’s office? Where to place his large collection of books in the daughter’s flat? And what is the value of one hour of paternal love in Euros?
The set is a living room dominated by three wing chairs as the fathers’ thrones. The costumes are modern, but are contrasted with rubber boots with attached rivets, waistcoats and ruffs. The performance includes the use of video cameras, projections, music and dance to create a diverting theatre experience. With frankness and dry humour fathers and daughters on stage try and accomplish equilibrium between generations, remembering their problems during the rehearsal process and their difficulties to understand each other.
The little arguments and debates on stage are hilarious and made me laugh so many times. I was able to relate to the characters completely as some of their conversations have taken place in my own family almost word for word. Although the fathers admit to having reservations about exposing their quirks and flaws to the public, I never had the feeling of voyeurism. Sorting out the family issues is not a humiliating process for anyone as I could always feel the deep respect they have for each other. Although portraying fictionalised versions of themselves, you can tell the fathers are not trained actors. However, far from damaging the show this, in my opinion, is what makes this project so unique. At all times it feels sincere and very intimate, with the cast often addressing their lines directly towards us; looking for alliances in the audience.
Despite being a fun performance for most of the time, She She Pop don’t shy away from the serious aspects of getting older. Their greatest strength lies in the ability to give everyone a voice and make us laugh, whilst also reminding us that time with our fathers is limited. After all is said and done, the only possessions they want to keep for the rest of their lives are not rare pieces of art or shelves of books but individual freedom and dignity.
At two hours long without interval, this play might be slightly challenging; especially as it is performed in a foreign language with subtitles, but this is no reason not to see it. It’s a phenomenally fresh idea and equally well put together, showing that good entertainment really can take all forms.
Directed and Conceived by: She She Pop
Production and PR: ehrliche arbeit
Booking Until: 7 June 2014
Box Office: 020 7638 8891
Booking Link: https://www.barbican.org.uk