at Summerhall, Wednesday 7th August 2013
*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*
I saw Vladimor Tzekov Stage Action Laboratory’s Fantasy No. 10 – The Beauty of Life as part of a Best of BE showcase last year, albeit in a version which was a lot shorter and featured less text than this incarnation. Even then, it was a wildly funny show which set up strange scenarios by placing one idea in opposition with another in order to embrace an idea of contradiction in the modern world. Now, the humour has been honed and we get a slightly more nuanced consideration of interpretation.
Four actors – three male, one female – perform the piece, transitioning throughout from odd fantastical clothing (a dressing gown, a tutu) to nothing but beige pants. A man in a wheelchair is repeatedly pushed out of it, and another is beaten up in a way reminiscent of a cartoon. At one point, we get a simple discussion between two people about a confusion of categories in everyday life.
The company say they want audiences to respond organically to their work and aren’t being deliberately comic or tragic, which comes across in the lack of expression; we are given the freedom to place on top of the show whatever interpretation we wish. Manuel Bonillo’s direction presents us with a selection of moving images which, with a sparse script, appeals to a gut instinct, meaning we have to evaluate our thoughts after the event.
Beautiful music from Tiger Lillies, Demis Roussos and Narkotek subvert the phrases being used, often singing quotes used in the show (“Take me out, bitch”) and accompanying the violent images with lilting tones in order to make the show all the more disorienting and even harder to come to any conclusion. But then, as the piece demonstrates, it is impossible to interpret beyond one’s personal understanding, meaning this review is as unfinished as any piece of art in itself. As one actor says, “any reading is partial”.