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A CurtainUp London Review
Fortunately Anthony Neilson's direction allows a balance to this series of scenes and intertwining narratives. Starting with the first recorded pictures in the caves of Lascaux of a man either killing a bison or being killed by a bison, the ambiguity provides the indecision of the narratives that follow. Many of the actors will end the play wearing bison's horns but the horns themselves are ambiguous in what they mean.
There are two actors, friends, Oliver Rix and Barnaby Power. While Oliver gets cast in a blockbuster Hollywood film as a superhero Elasticman, Power worries about losing his part in a soap opera. Rix is also sent an envelope in the very first scene which contains the picture of someone's anus and will worry about who the picture is from and whose anus he is looking at. Could it be his own?
Zawe Ashton works in PR and can't hang onto her boyfriends. As the relationship ends, she says to him, "Don't leave me here with all our memories," she pleads. "I've only been here three times," he counters. A girl, Imogen Doel will stab her best friend Sophie Ross and be the first to wear the horns, which under her spiky blonde hair make her look remarkably like the silhouette of a bison's head. Christine Entwisle will play a campaigning mother whose teenage son David has committed suicide after being prescribed a medication for acne, which has connections to other suicides.
The acting is polished but the overall effect is fragmented like the broken mirror shards which line the onstage pond. Garance Marneur's beautiful white set is very wide and delineated like a long bar, on a futuristic design with a screen space to play film. The opening film is about Lascaux and the last one I remember is three kittens on three turntables, diverting but what on earth does it all mean? We are reminded of the devised aspect when one character is handed a note saying his character has died and he vents his frustration at not being able to develop or finish his ideas.
The actors wear T shirts printed with pictures of themselves as children but again why? The actors also use their own names as if their characters are just an extension of their real selves which of course they are! Yes, Narrative feels experimental and puzzling but at times it is self indulgent and difficult to fathom.
So ends Dominic Cooke's outstanding reign as Artistic Director of the Royal Court as he leaves and Vicky Featherstone takes over. Cooke has been an outstanding Artistic Director, launching plays like Lucy Prebble's Enron, Mike Bartlett's Cock and My Child, Bruce Norris' The Pain and the Itch and Clybourne Park and many more. Although he says not, let's hope Cooke is in the running to head up the National Theatre as, this week, Artistic Director Nicholas Hytner has announced that he will leave in 2015.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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