Stan Douglas and Chris Haddock produce impressive but confused multimedia theatre at Edinburgh International Festival
This article is from 2014.
Helen Lawrence is the definition of ‘impressive’ multimedia theatre, as Canadian Stage has enlisted the help of artist Stan Douglas and screenwriter Chris Haddock to create an homage to 1940s film noir through a combination of theatre and film.
Femme fatale Helen (Lisa Ryder) travels to post-WW2 Vancouver in search of her murderous ex-lover, while she faces life in jail for protecting him. Cue encounters with gangsters and corrupt policemen, illegal abortions, prostitution and murder.
The stage is bare and acts as a blank canvas where the actors play out the scenes. This is simultaneously filmed and placed into a detailed black and white film projected on a blue-tinted gauze screen engulfing the stage, allowing for the creation of an innovative and visually stunning theatre experience. No faults can be found in the technical execution, with scene changes faultlessly fluid, and strong acting by the cast particularly apparent as facial expression and body language are magnified tenfold on screen.
Quickly, however, the fusion of theatre and film frustrates as the audience is faced with the constant and tiring decision of whether to watch the screen or live acting. Against the giant of technology the actors lack stage presence, which is not helped by the thin script. Too many subplots render Helen’s story – the driving narrative – without enough context to evoke substantial empathy, and it remains unclear if she is seeking revenge or reconciliation, only adding to the general confusion of this production.
Kings Theatre, run ended.