at Warwick Arts Centre, Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26th Janurary 2010
Going to watch works in progress at the theatre is always a risky business. For a start, we know nothing about what we’re going to see, and are going in blind. It also means we can’t tell how close to the initial vision the current production is; is what we are watching supposed to look like this? Perhaps most importantly for the purpose of this post, it makes it hard to review with fairness what’s on show.
PILOT is a collection of short pieces created by a variety of theatre companies and presented by China Plate. It was created to showcase new work in an informal atmosphere, and all the performances are still in the process of being made. Unfortunately, the fact that they’re unfinished isn’t the problem; their content, however, is. We are presented with Who Knows Where by Ed Rapley, a take on death, and Millions and Pliers’ Karinthy: There Is No Art Without Science, a performance by two clowns about brain tumours which tries far too hard to be funny. Drunken Chorus’ And Hell Followed With Them is most embarrassing, which consists of bodies being dragged around the floor and ‘clever’ lighting used to create ‘haunting’ images. But perhaps I’m being too harsh.
For this very reason Caroline Horton’s Mess stands out as the diamond in the rough. Two friends tell us about the play they’re going to perform which will tackle the issue of anorexia. A beautifully funny metatheatrical piece, it observes perfectly how devised productions can often seem no more than pretentious drivel. They explain how a sheet will be used “to represent struggle. And when it comes apart in the middle it will look like an accident but it won’t be”. Caroline Horton and Hannah Boyde (who appeared together in the brilliant Heldenplatz last year) play the central pair and create an intensely believable relationship. Just watching these two characters talking for an hour would be a worthwhile way to spend time. Mess in fact parodies much of the work presented by the other companies in the evening, and in doing to stands out as comedy of the highest standard.
Kalagora, on the other hand, is a carefully constructed one-man show telling stories about one man’s journey’s through cities of the world. We are transported to Mumbai, New York and London through use of poetry, drama, music and film. Written and performed by Siddhartha Bose, the story is clear, telling tales of love and loss, happiness and sadness, and how all come together in the city. His choice of words is impressive, telling us of “supernatual skyscrapers” and a city “of stars, bleeding into the river”, even if at times he tries a little to hard: “London’s like Shakespeare; everything and nothing”.
Another problem is Bose’s own performance skills; he has clearly never been told that Hamlet advised us not to “saw the air too much with your hand”. He also places his characters on either side of the stage, meaning he face constantly faces towards the wings. We’ve half a mind to stand up and shout “WE’RE OVER HERE!” Still, his characterisation is spot-on and it’s nothing a few hours’ work couldn’t sort. He is also supported by some impressive film footage and visceral music created by Pakaj Awasthi. For all its faults, Kalagora is an engaging tale about how a person can become a city and vice versa.