Tristan Bates Theatre
Reviewed – 15th June 2019
“with actors as charming and accomplished as this pair, it is no great effort to spend sixty minutes in their company”
The Luncheon promises us “a surreal two-hander which explores space, time and matter over the course of one lunch.” Performed at the Tristan Bates Theatre in the Actors Centre, Kace Monney and Luis Amália play with our theatrical concepts of space and time by performing a show that is full of unpredictable events. Furthermore, every performance of The Luncheon is always changing and never the same. It’s a clever idea that draws us in, but, depending on which performance we actually get to see, may leave us feeling that the lunch was a trifle insubstantial. To be fair, there are many theatregoers who delight in such randomness, and the audience appeared to be well fed on the bill of fare presented on this particular evening.
The Luncheon began promisingly with a table loaded with food and drink and a nod to playwrights Gertrude Stein and Shakespeare, among others. Monney and Amália gave fair warning that what followed would be non-linear, and that was certainly an accurate description. And with actors as charming and accomplished as this pair, it is no great effort to spend sixty minutes in their company while they put on a virtuoso display of self-referential acting exercises, punctuated by episodes of manic eating and drinking. There is also a lot to admire in the physicality of their acting, although the studio space at the Actors Centre was perhaps a bit too small to contain such energy. The show on this particular day was well calculated to appeal to an audience of actors, and there seemed to be several present who were enjoying all the acting jokes.
Ultimately, My Dinner With André this is not. Or at least, it wasn’t on this night, and theatregoers present may have left feeling a bit disappointed. But in another time and in another space, Monney and Amália’s idea for The Luncheon gives every audience the hope that one day they could enjoy a meal packed full of food choices much more to their taste.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Tristan Bates Theatre
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Franz Kafka – Apparatus
White Bear Theatre
Reviewed – 10th January 2019
“By wisely trusting in the source material, he has achieved a result which is both timely and, at times, compelling”
Though a century old, the fiction of Franz Kafka – its cruelty, its paranoia, and its pitch-black humour- reverberates through time. The concept of a ‘penal colony’ may seem outdated, a nightmare from a forgotten age, but Kafka’s short story of the same name remains a terrifyingly urgent vision of cold, bureaucratic madness, and ultimately its collapse. As such it seems fitting that today it should be brought to the stage, as it has in Ross Dinwiddy’s new adaptation.
In the original text – to which Dinwiddy’s plot remains relatively true – a traveller from an unnamed country arrives on an unnamed island, a penal colony. He is escorted to the place of an execution he has come to observe, and discovers there the brutal and arcane process by which it will be carried out. In twelve-hour cycles, a machine – the “apparatus” – carves the sentences of condemned persons into their skin, keeping them alive at least long enough to have an “epiphany” concerning their crimes. The only executor – and increasingly the only supporter – of the practice is an officer who, with almost religious zeal, explains to the traveller the baroque form of torture which he is about to witness. The only other characters are the condemned man and the soldier guarding him.
The small number of characters as well as the small space are both fitting for the dank, paranoid atmosphere of the play. The claustrophobic room housing the apparatus once doubled as an inner sanctum for its adherents; we the audience act as the ghosts of the many observers that once came but do so no longer. Matt Hastings’ traveller is perhaps more obviously appalled than Kafka’s original character, yet as a result he acts as the vessel for our horror. But the keystone of the piece is undoubtedly Emily Carding’s officer, whose wild mood swings between order and mania mirror the essential madness of bureaucracy underpinning everything.
Where the play becomes somewhat slack, however, is in its awkward transition from page to stage. Much of the officer’s dialogue is lifted directly from Kafka, but what works well in prose often becomes too knotty for drama. There are times when the officer’s explanations lose interest in spite of Carding’s charisma. Restoring the balance slightly is the parallel relationship between the soldier and the condemned man (Maximus Polling and Luis Amália respectively). What starts as detached, slowly develops (despite the condemned man’s circumstances) into playful and finally sexual, all carried out in silence as the oblivious officer explains the apparatus. It is in this sequence in particular that the piece best expresses Kafka’s dark sense of humour. And yet even this loses interest after some time, leaving sections in the middle of the play flat, in want of something happening.
Nonetheless, Dinwiddy manages to retain the cruelty and absurdity of the story. By wisely trusting in the source material, he has achieved a result which is both timely and, at times, compelling.
Reviewed by Harry True
Franz Kafka – Apparatus
White Bear Theatre until 26th January
Previously reviewed at this venue: