Sunday 11 August 2013

Academic performance

Laquearia Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

I don’t doubt the intelligence of Laquearia as a piece of writing. In fact, it’s incredibly complex and thoughtfully written, often reading like an academic essay. But then that’s the problem; though it may be an important piece of criticism, it fails to work theatrically on many levels.

We watch as John Cage and Samuel Beckett play out the game of chess described in Beckett’s Murphy. They sit downstage whilst a Narrator and a Commentator give a running commentary of the events, allowing us to evaluate what’s going on intellectually at every moment. Alongside this game of chess, a score in the vein of Cage’s Reunion is played, activated by a chess board wired up to speakers to mimic the game he played against the Duchamps in 1968.

This lecture-demonstration is an interesting experiment in form, but you need every area of your brain to be engaged to even begin to follow Victoria Miguel’s academic text. The Narrator - played by Philip Kingscott - has the majority of lines and wanders around the stage, script in hand. He fails to really engage with what’s going on intellectually, though, meaning our guide seems just as clueless as us.

The score - composed by Cage, Jacob Carpenter Morris, Marc Thorman and Lynn Wright - is both interesting and annoying in equal measure, never really taking us anywhere and making it all the more difficult to understand the script itself. Indeed, it’s hard to tell that its being influenced by the game of chess being played and could just be a track played from a CD.

I guess the reason Laquearia doesn’t quite work is that, unlike the initial incarnations of the pieces it takes inspiration from, it’s consciously a piece of performance, with ‘actors’ standing in the place of ‘real people’. Thus Kingscott feels less like an intellectual lecturing us and more like an actor reading a script, whilst Allan Scott-Douglas and Paul Birchard - though good - are clearly ‘acting’ a conversation between two great minds rather than actually having it.

Fortunately, we get given a copy of the text on the way out, allowing us to peruse the piece and all its ideas at our own leisure. Whilst we’re in the room at Summerhall, though, it’s difficult to engage, and doesn’t say anything new in its performance that the two pieces weren’t saying already.

Venue: Summerhall till 9 August 2013


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