Festival review: Perle; Assembly Roxy (venue 139)
The award-winning Dancing Brick have a talent for conjuring up beautiful, offbeat characters and stories with a bare minimum of props and no speech, and their new show is a moving example of the kind of imaginative, visual storytelling-with-a-heart they do so well.
Written and performed by Thomas Eccleshare and directed by Valentina Ceschi, it’s the company’s first one-man show (normally Eccleshare and Ceschi perform on stage together) – a silent cry for help made all the more touching by the manner in which it’s delivered.
Using a single television to communicate, a man with a making-the-most-of-things smile, Thomas, tells his story without saying a word. “Hi” says a piece of text appearing on the screen – the greeting he would like to make if he could. “How are you?”
This “conversation” with the audience develops into a fusion of live performance and comic book-style animation (by Serge Seidlitz), as Eccleshare sets about doing tasks that are continued on the monitor in front of him. It’s as if performer and TV are wired together.
He obsessively makes sandwiches and the cartoon ingredients fall onto the bread as he chops them. He plucks books out of the screen called things like ‘Stages of Grief’. He rolls a tiny spotless pearl in hands and looks sad.
Through mime timed with precision to composer Harry Blake’s exquisite electro soundtrack, Eccleshare gives a tightly choreographed performance filled with down-to-earth charm. His character is likeable and approachable, and it’s not at all scary to be invited on stage and play a part in his story – something that enables the audience to care about it all the more.
There is a bleak kind of commentary running through the piece in its portrayal of a man able to express grief only through the cold, impersonal medium of modern technology – a comment, perhaps, on a world filled with the grey machines that enable us to communicate without really connecting. Based upon the medieval poem Pearl, it’s a show with a taut, slow-reveal narrative making the moment our Everyman finally finds his voice all the more moving.
Rating: * * * *
Until 26 August. Today 1:45pm.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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