Harrowing history makes for unsatisfying theatre
This article is from 2008.
This curious collage of movement, speech, sound and lighting FX creates an impressionistic portrayal of life under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Opening with a series of statistics and dates, we are bombarded with the major losses and severity of this cruel regime. The Gymnast reflects a world where any educated person was at risk and thousands died or fled to refugee camps across the border in Thailand. It’s undoubtedly a harrowing history, but it’s one that hasn’t translated particularly seamlessly to the stage.
The piece deals with fear, grief and trauma, reflecting the experiences of those involved and those who allowed this atrocity to take place. The production relies heavily on effects to make sense of this mismatched patchwork of hastily linked scenes: clothes are scattered then collected up again, distorted military music creates the soundtrack for a marching sequence and ‘We Are Family’ plays in the background as performer Jane Arnfield dances and then gives out spoons.
While her passion for the subject is admirable, it’s hard to uncover what Arnfield’s intention actually is. And, while she is undeniably a talented performer, you’re left wondering why she has chosen this particular history to showcase her talents.
Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 23 Aug (not 14), 2.30pm, £10–£11.50 (£8–£9.50).