Tag Archives: Battersea Arts Centre

The Legend Of Moby Dick Whittington

The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington

★★★★★

Online

The Legend Of Moby Dick Whittington

The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington

Online until 5th January via www.thesleepingtrees.co.uk

Reviewed – 30th November 2020

★★★★★

 

“a fabulous family show that will have everyone feeling the holiday spirit

 

I first saw the work of the Sleeping Trees in 2019, and a good time was had by all who watched their zany take on Goldilocks and the Three Musketeers at the Battersea Arts Centre. It feels good, therefore, to report that even a pandemic can’t stop James Dunnell-Smith, Joshua George Smith, and John Woodburn from performing yet another mashed up panto in 2020. Moby Dick Whittington is a little different, it’s true. For starters the Sleeping Trees had to move into James’ home to perform it. The Company had to film the whole thing so that we could enjoy it in our homes. It’s clearly a notion that mingled inspiration with perspiration. And for parents who are looking for an easy way to tire out the kids on Christmas Eve in exchange for an hour’s extra sleep on Christmas morning, it’s a godsend. Just sit everyone down in front of the TV, mince pies in hand. Be warned, however, that no one will be sitting down for long. Moby Dick Whittington will have the youngsters jumping around and building forts in the living room in no time. As the Trees often say during all the mayhem that ensues — “Sorry, Parents.”

In 2020, the year we’d all like to forget, it’s the turn of Melville’s seafaring classic novel Moby Dick and that perennial panto favourite Dick Whittington to undergo dramatic vivisection. The plot (devised by the Sleeping Trees and Ben Hales) is way too involved to go into here (and anyway, spoilers). Rest assured that there is a happy ending. No whales are massacred in the making of this movie. There is some ingenious updating—for example, Captain Ahab becomes Dr. Jessica Ahab, an intrepid marine biologist. She is hunting the great white whale in the interests of science, naturally. And familiar characters such as Dick Whittington and his Cat are pretty much as we remember them in a more traditional panto. The Sleeping Trees’ arch nemesis King Rat makes his annual appearance. What Santa, Pinocchio, Scrooge and an entrepreneurial barista named Starbuck have to do with the plot — well, you’ll just have to watch Moby Dick Whittington to find out.

The strong points of this show are many, starting with the performers themselves. Relaxed in front of the camera, as opposed to their more frenetic style on stage, the trio pull off their usual quick character and costume changes with aplomb. Shaun Reynolds’ clever filming allows them to do this in “up close and personal” mode as well. A storm at sea is both funny and effective with some nifty hand held camera work. But the real genius of Moby Dick Whittington is the way the Sleeping Trees use multiple locations throughout James’ house. Kudos to director Kerry Frampton for figuring out the logistics. We move from the Christmas Lights ceremony on the staircase to the London sewers in the toilet. (Of course.) A ship at sea, and yes, even the inside of a whale’s belly are deftly created with easily obtained household items in the living room. (And we’re invited to play along.) King Rat and Dick Whittington fight their duel in the kitchen. One of the best moments in the show is meeting the great white whale himself in the bath, and learning how to speak whale. Don’t be surprised if your kids do “try this at home.” “Sorry, parents!”

Moby Dick Whittington is a fabulous family show that will have everyone feeling the holiday spirit. The only problem on the horizon might be the difficulty of coaxing kids back into theatres when they reopen. Why get dressed up to sit still in a theatre, when you could be at home jumping and up down on the sofa chasing a great white whale with bedsheets, a wooden spoon, and some toilet rolls?

 

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Shaun Reynolds

 

The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington

Online until 5th January via www.thesleepingtrees.co.uk

 

Recently reviewed by Dominica:
Revisor | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | March 2020
Sky In The Pie | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
The Revenger’s Tragedy (La Tragedia Del Vendicatore) | ★★★★★ | Barbican | March 2020
The Tempest | ★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | March 2020
Bird | ★★ | Cockpit Theatre | September 2020
Bread And Circuses | ★★½ | Online | September 2020
Minutes To Midnight | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020
Paradise Lost | ★★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | September 2020
Persephone’s Dream | ★★★ | Online | September 2020
The Trilobite | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Autoreverse

Autoreverse

★★★★

Battersea Arts Centre

Autoreverse

Autoreverse

 Battersea Arts Centre

Reviewed – 5th February 2020

★★★★

 

“the raw emotions being experienced by Cordeu as she performs are something that we can tune into whoever and wherever we may be”

 

The importance of remembering – and forgetting – and identifying where you truly call your home are key themes in a fascinating and powerful audio-visual theatrical experience at Battersea Arts Centre as part of an impressive Going Global spring season.

As much a general plea to listen to the stories of our forebears as it is a personal journey through her family’s life in South America (and, indeed, the tale of the country itself), Florencia Cordeu has created a captivating piece of performance art in “Autoreverse.”

Using extracts from cassette tapes stored at her family home in Chile, Cordeu learns about the past and rediscovers her present as she reflects on what she hears on the tapes, featuring voices of various family members who escaped the cruel Argentinian regime in the 1970s but were forced apart as a result.

An array of cassette players in a living room are used to play the various tapes (all credit to Elena Pena at the sound desk for making this so realistic), which stirs recollections of growing up, and evokes memories of a bygone age, feelings of safety and home.

The set (Rajha Shakiry) is so convincing the audience feels it has mistakenly wandered into someone’s apartment rather than into a performance in the Centre’s Members’ Bar.

What is poignant is that to anyone else these recordings mean little – as Cordeu herself admits they “capture the banal, the everyday.” But we soon come to realise the importance of these tapes – love letters between family members living apart which capture moments in time to be played on other days in other places.

Director Omar Elerian allows the personal essence of the story to develop and flow naturally as Cordeu shares centre stage with the voices of the past, though references to the analogue reality of old cassette tapes (which have a limited life span) seem odd when it is clear that CDs or digitally recorded versions of the tapes are being played.

But it is easy to look beyond that as we picture a natural flow of thoughts and images falling onto the iron oxide of the tape, which allows a sense of “being there while not being there and seeing things with the ears.”

Not only do the recordings – and, by extension, the show – attempt to rescue and make sense of everyday life but serve a purpose of remembering what may have otherwise been forgotten.

A recurring motif of a tree – Cordeu brings on a bonsai, which she wishes could be planted outside rather than sitting on a table in a pot to allow it to grow freely and unconstrained – serves as a significant metaphor. She tends it with the notion that it is important to try to keep things alive, as important for plants as it is for memories.

With the first recording played serving as a narrative (the performer recorded it in her flat last year) there’s an intriguing question posed about looking to the future and being what you want to be – a publicity image for the production of a little girl dressed as Wonder Woman has relevance as the play continues.

The closing scene, which considers what is truly our home and how we build it up, adds depth to a show that is already thought-provoking.

The overall impact is touching, even where there’s a feeling another culture might find it difficult to share the experiences and fully understand the implication of all the memories. But the raw emotions being experienced by Cordeu as she performs are something that we can tune into whoever and wherever we may be.

 

Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Helen Murray

 


Autoreverse

 Battersea Arts Centre until 22nd February

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
How to Survive a Post-Truth Apocalypse | ★★★ | May 2018
Rendezvous in Bratislava | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Dressed | ★★★★★ | February 2019
Frankenstein: How To Make A Monster | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Status | ★★★½ | April 2019
Woke | ★★★ | June 2019
Now Is Time To Say Nothing | ★★★★ | October 2019
Queens Of Sheba | ★★★★ | November 2019
Trojan Horse | ★★★★★ | November 2019
Goldilocks And The Three Musketeers | ★★★★★ | December 2019

 

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