Saturday 6 September 2014

Theatre review: Reptember - Prometheus Bound / Dog's Dialogue / John Gabriel Borkmann

Straight back to the New Diorama for another in its trilogy of trilogies, Reptember. As I mentioned in my earlier review, this sees The Faction adapt classic texts into monologues, and this bill opens with the most liberal adaptation so far: Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound provides only the inspiration for Will Gore's short play, which takes the story of eternal punishment and puts it in a much more human context: The company's artistic director Mark Leipacher takes to the stage as a Prometheus working behind a bar, but with a dark past as a terrorist and torturer. The people he once worked with are now running the country, but that doesn't mean he's safe from having his past come back to haunt him, and the punishments he one meted out are visited upon him in turn. It's an interesting idea but, opening with Leipacher standing up a ladder and apparently bound there, director Rachel Valentine Smith doesn't quite bring a sense of movement to the piece, and this static feeling infects the whole evening.

Next up is one of the guest performers, and Natasha Rickman is really rather good in Gareth Jandrell's Dog's Dialogue. Inspired by a Cervantes story, it sees a bull mastiff bitch suddenly gain the power of human speech. She uses it to tell the story of her life moving from master to master, as the world of men persists in disappointing and abusing her. After a rather repetitive middle section, it really comes to life as it becomes apparent that Cervantes' satire has been co-opted as a very current, urgent feminist text. It's just a shame the piece ends with Jandrell stating and restating this fact, not trusting the audience to have worked out his metaphor for themselves.

Finally a seemingly topical story of a currupt banker - except Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkmann gets jail time instead of a bonus, so maybe it's not that relevant after all. I've never found Alexander Guiney the most arresting of actors, and Leipacher's adaptation and direction aren't all that dynamic. The monologue sees Borkmann address empty chairs as if they were members of his family; I think we may just need to accept that Clint Eastwood has killed that particular trope stone dead. So this trio didn't work for me as well as the first, possibly due to an issue I'd been concerned about between the shows: The individual pieces may be well-chosen for their actors, but god they're a bleak affair taken all together, and there's little to connect the speeches that form each programme. I have one more show to see but so far the first collection is the one to catch.

Reptember - Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus adapted by Will Gore, Dog's Dialogue by Miguel de Cervantes adapted by Gareth Jandrell and John Gabriel Borkmann by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Mark Leipacher is booking in repertory until the 20th of September at the New Diorama Theatre.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes including interval.

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