Friday, February 16, 2007

An Indian Epic

Back to the Lyric on Wednesday for David Farr’s Ramayana. I love the work Farr is doing at the Lyric and his last stab at a big epic narrative, The Odyssey was fantastic I thought, inventive and memorable. But this, an adaptation of the story of Rama and Sita, seemed static and pedestrian in comparison. There was too much exposition and nothing as visually startling as the lumbering Cyclops from The Odyssey.

The way the text had been updated also struck me as rather awkward, the dialogue frequently veered from the overtly poetic to the casual and contemporary (men dressed as monkeys making appalling puns about 'gorilla warfare,' that kind of thing). It felt confused and unsure of itself, a little rough around the edges but not in a good way. I did like it however when one of the actors clambered out into the audience, treading on seat backs (and probably on the odd theatre-goer as well), the production could have used a few more moments like that.

Yesterday, I was at North London's Pleasance Theatre for the opening night of David Strassman’s new show. He’s that ventriloquist chap with the demonic Chucky-doll dummy. Strassman plays the affable straight-man, while the puppet gets to be all foul-mouthed and nasty (it spits as well, as those in the front row found out). It was very funny, in a crude, dick-jokey kind of way, and as a result you simply don’t notice the technical precision of it all, the constant juggling of characters and voices.

The show had a nice sinister feeling as well, playing on the idea that his dummies were slowly taking over. It's not the most original idea, certainly not if you've seen Magic, the faintly ropey Anthony Hopkins’ ventriloquist-slowly-driven-mad-by dummy movie (now there's a genre), but it worked well in context.

If you’ve seen Strassman perform before, then there’s not much that's new going on here. Having seen his act on TV, I knew the man had an interest in robotics, that his dummies were a little more advanced then they first appeared, but if I'm honest, even though I knew what was coming, when the puppets came to life at the end, when their eyes opened and their heads began to swivel, it was still pretty damn creepy.

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