Tough play with the meaning stressed out
This article is from 2011.
Howard Barker is a playwright loved by academics for the challenges thrown down by his knotty ‘theatre of catastrophe’ and by actors for the chance to get their tongues round his muscular language. His writing is tough, poetic and uncompromising.
It’s a shame, therefore, that actor Annette Chown does not seem able to trust Barker’s words to work for her. Instead, in this production by the Mechanical Animal Corporation, she performs in a punishingly emphatic manner, STRESSING every SECOND word SO it IS impossible TO make ANY sense OF the SCRIPT. It also means, after yelling her way through the most innocuous passages, she has nowhere to go when she is really angry.
Why she should be angry is consequently hard to fathom in this portrait of an aristocratic woman, deserted by her servants while some kind of crisis takes place beyond the walls of her home and the man she is waiting for does not arrive. You have to do your own research to find out she is a Jewish woman in denial about being under attack.
Tom Bailey’s production looks good with its swinging Perspex tables suggesting some ultra-fashionable designer interior, and there’s an interesting live soundscape. But all this counts for little when the central performance is so impenetrable.
C Soco, 0845 260 1234, until 29 Aug, 9.30pm, £10.50–£11.50 (£8.50–£9.50).