Reviewed – 10th December 2018
“streamlining and simplified stagecraft would make it breathe more easily; but it is still a worthy piece of theatre”
It is refreshing to see the Park’s studio space used so inventively. Dialektikon entices with its visual tricks, enticing and varied staging, and exceptional live music. Occasionally obfuscatory, the drama loses itself in a combination of intellectual verbosity and abstract storytelling. However, exploding with ideas, and with plenty of power and substance, this premiere is well worth watching.
Conceptually, Dialektikon is vast. Unifying myth with real debate, and endeavouring to find the common truth in both, it does well to sustain the audience’s interest without an interval. This is primarily down to the exceptional design of Carl Robertshaw and Jonathan Samuels in particular. Porous fabrics throwing shapes on the walls, every colour in the spectrum reflecting off diamond surfaces and the leaping, undulating bodies of the company. The use of shadow theatre was compelling and beautiful, and the top of the show was one of the best I’ve seen in a long while. The puppetry also was a visual treat, and a much needed diversion from the intense atmosphere created by the cast of nine. Kate Luxmoore, composer and instrumentalist, and Stanley Ohios on drums, brought the whole play up a notch. It was a joy to have live music used so nimbly, creatively and expertly to interplay with the stage action. The company must be commended for working so well as a team, enshrining many theatrical practices whilst adding their own flavour of innovation.
Adébayo Bolaji’s ambitious directing showcased some very visually striking moments. The cast of male, ‘real’ people – among them Allen Ginsberg and R.D. Laing – formed a dynamic chorus, stamping and chanting, performing with passion, conviction, and the genuine support of a committed ensemble. Benjamin Victor’s lithe and energetic performance was the perfect combination of entrancing and unsettling. Mary Nyambura as the eyes-wide-open Miranda was calm, elegant and an excellent fulcrum. Ayuda Wedo’s commanding stage presence elevated the drama.
That said, though the piece had strong performances and many watchable set movement pieces, the transitions in, out of and between them were sometimes rough around the edges, such that staging did not always compliment what was said. When they supported one another, the text and the directing were marvellous. But they frequently clashed in an overindulgent spree, leaving the emotional vigour and weight of the play flattened. The relationships between characters were sacrificed for soundbites and punchy political messages, which left both rather wanting, and the play’s ultimate impact less hard-hitting than it deserved to be.
Dialektikon has many strengths. It coalesces a lot of matter into something which, at its best, truly exhilarates. Dramaturgical streamlining and simplified stagecraft would make it breathe more easily; but it is still a worthy piece of theatre.
Reviewed by Eloïse Poulton
Photography by Amoroso Films
Park Theatre until 29th December
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: