For Plays, three identical urns contain a man, his wife and his mistress as they relive their perspectives of the affair in rapid and eccentric fashion. It’s quirky, and so off the wall, but also captivating and charming. Three actors hide inside futuristic yet simple egg-pod like compost bins, with only their heads visible as they reel off Play’s dialogue. That everyone is covered in dusky blue paint, with unexplained aquatic-type scales adhering to their skin, provides an unplaceable yet otherworldly quality.
Their enunciation and delivery of the lines is fantastic – words are over pronounced with the baring of the whiteness of the actors’ teeth as much a visual spectacle as the paint and urns. Sometimes they speak on top of each other; sometimes they speak in a more cohesive, organised taking of turns. The light follows the speakers. Pauses are interjected into the dialogue and the tension in the pauses is stunning. The story is delivered quickly, and you can’t miss a word if you want to keep up. Fortunately, the dialogue repeats and the audience are rapt in keeping up with the storyline and where the light will shine next.
Where Plays is a captivating force of blink-and-you-miss-it energy, Footfalls could not be more opposite. The story of a ghostly figure pacing a bare strip of landing outside her dying mother’s room is slow, morose, plodding – and at times, tedious and confusing.
It’s a deliberately hard contrast to put these two polar opposites together, but where Play triumphs in repetitiveness, Footfalls is considerably more difficult, as the audience aren’t really catching helpful new information at each turn and there is a lot of uncertainty in to how this piece should be interpreted. This portion seems to last considerably longer that it’s upbeat companion. This is deliberate, with the heavy, methodically footsteps true to Beckett’s considered vision – but is there enough in this to continually engage with, or to sustain the audience’s attention?
There are elements of mingling past and presence, veiled truth and a lingering uncertainty as to who the ghost is and how ‘ghost’ is defined; but it’s also equally uncertain when they play ends that the show has concluded, and the audience don’t rise from their seats until several minutes pass.
There are successes here, particularly with regards to bringing vision to life and a stunning first portion of the performance, but equally there are challenges with the merging of two vastly different plays back to back. The result is a little bewildering and uncertain.
This is a creative and unusual production, and a show which definitely requires an inquisitive and open approach. In true Samuel Beckett style, this is certainly ‘Theatre of the Absurd.’
Director: John Patterson
Produced by: Angel Theatre Company
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: https://brockleyjack.co.uk/jackstudio-entry/footfalls-and-play/
Booking Until: 9 March 2019