Pledge Review 1

So, nearly two months into the year my first entry is made on my Theatre Pledge card:

Forever in Your Debt at the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton (which I have been to before). Taking people to the theatre and hosting a party will have to wait but there is the commitment to posting twelve reviews/comments/blog entries about theatre. The implication is there should possibly be one per show.

The writing about theatre pledge was included in response to a complaint heard regularly that there is not enough debate around theatre. I sense that many people either lack a confidence in their own opinions, hold them too lightly or are afraid that, if expressed, they may upset people. Shame, shame, shame I say, we’re all grown-ups and if there’s no malice intended why should someone’s taste in art be held against them?

Theatre Pledge Review 1: Forever In Your Debt.

Foursight collaborating with Talking Birds is the coming together of two respected theatrical voices. The division of labour appears clear, the Birds are in the wings: Nick Walker provides a text full of deft touches and deadpan humour, Derek Nisbit assembles a series of crisp measured songs and Janet Vaughan has designed a pitched set, initially stark and strong, latterly fractured and broken; Foursight are directing things on stage, theirs is the bold ensemble acting, singing and slick playing.

Whilst pre-show shorthand has referred to this as ‘the debt show’ the subject remains curiously low in the mix. Research has included interviews with those struggling in debt, but the narratives are set in a fantastical world. A narrator has assembled a band, The Roulette’s, she plays a cleaner who rescues a potential suicide from a tower block due for demolition, each member of the band plays a member of the girl’s family. In turns their stories are told, mostly in song, until we know everyone’s back-story, why the youngest daughter wears an eye patch and her elder sister a fake moustache and copyboy hat, why the father has gone transsexual and mother wears ski goggles pushed up on her head.

It’s competently put together and executed with skill but by my measure it misses the mark. There are many lovely moments, but nothing builds or sustains. Though full of drama, the tales are recounted and little actually happens on stage.

This collaboration was a bold move and laudable as such. It appeared to match complimentary skills, yet the result is less than the sum of the talents of its team. Maybe a diffusion of vision has blurred the focus. Talking Bird’s understated form of Magic Realism meets Foursight’s ‘Lecoqian’ styalisation and unfortunately they diminish each other.

There we go anyone who reads this and feels moved to contradict me please do. That is what the pledge is about, stimulating debate.

James Yarker

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