Pros: The show leads with an intriguing idea, and the music and set create an alluring ambience.
Cons: The plot felt thin, the characters stereotypical, and the acting over-dramatic.
What happened after Frodo destroyed the ring and Luke defeated the Empire? The classics traditionally take three instalments to document any great quest, and then in the final chapters wrap everything up into a suitably happy ending. Théâtre Libre have chosen to do things a bit differently: their Hero shows what happens after the world has been saved.
Hero (Rebekah Roe) is a young woman who has led her winning army in a great battle that prevented the world from ending. Now she’s rather unwillingly going home with her Guide (Janet Kumah), and along the way they run into gypsies, a twelve-year old on a sugar high (Mark Lee), and a Poet who’s lost his priceless violin (Thom Short).
While the idea is unusual and compelling, the execution unfortunately wasn’t strong. The plot felt weak as Playwright Laura Bess Jernigan abandons the initial idea of documenting the aftermath of a quest halfway through, at which point she sends Hero on another mission, namely to find Poet’s violin. While this at least puts a stop to Hero’s rather tiring litany of angst-ridden thoughts and survivor’s guilt, it does seem an uncharacteristically frivolous pursuit for the stoic young woman. Potentially having realised this herself, Jernigan attempts to explain it away by having Guide utter the possibility of Poet’s music changing the world. All she knows for sure, is that she doesn’t know anything for sure. Pseudo-philosophical platitudes like these make up large parts of the dialogue, occasionally interspersed with jokes that I personally found awkward.
The acting came across as rather overwrought because in a space as small as Leicester Square Theatre’s Lounge – where you are literally close enough to hear the dancers’ joints creaking – subtlety has to be key. With the exception of Janet Kumah’s quietly dignified performance, the acting didn’t match the modest intimacy of its surroundings. Mark Lee, as the tallest and most muscular performer in the room, was incongruously cast as the hyperactive twelve-year old ‘Rat’; due to this physical disparity Lee somewhat over-pushed the bubbly personality of his character in compensation. It was a shame that the actors were responding to characters that had been scripted quite stereotypically, because the subsequent opportunities for development and nuance were limited. The dancer’s roles felt oversimplified; they played Disney-fied gypsies, complete with bells and barefoot skipping.
Nevertheless, there were some good points in the show, worthy of mention. The music, composed and performed by Azita Mehdinejad and Pavel Mezihorak, was pleasantly soft and flowing. Combined with Rachael Ryan’s simple but versatile set, constructed mainly out of bamboo and linen, it gave the show a mysterious, faintly exotic flavour. And directors Kaitlin Argeaux and Jo Bunnell-Thompson have created some beautiful imagery: for instance the moment when Poet’s playing of the beloved violin is represented by his dancing sensuously with a beautiful woman.
All in all, Hero left me with the unsatisfactory feeling of having seen a rather poor example of Théâtre Libre’s work. This is clearly an ambitious young company with engaging ideas and some serious talent. Let’s hope they will employ these great features a bit better next time round.
Author: Laura Bess Jernigan
Directors: Kaitlin Argeaux and Jo Bunnell-Thompson
Physical Theatre Company: Théâtre Libre
Composers: Azita Mehdinejad and Pavel Mezihorak
Choreographer: Justyna Ziarek
Box Office: 0844 873 3433
Booking Link: http://leicestersquaretheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873506233/events?TSLVq=54140813-ea7d-45c2-8f55-18bb19af6ae5&TSLVp=30907004-1426-4a42-b477-8b69f9046fbc&TSLVts=1394714796&TSLVc=ticketsolve&TSLVe=leicestersquare&TSLVrt=Queue&TSLVh=0471df6b4da3273fa6b45905f0a3c43b
Booking Until: 15th March 2014