Saturday 3 August 2013

One thing colliding with another

Lauder!, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

Lauder! begins and ends with images of planes crashing into the Twin Towers in various configurations: as speech, using props and played in reverse on a computer screen. And though the show itself is in fact about a child looking for lost persons, the idea of one thing colliding with another thing and causing chaos is one which threads throughout, but in Teatr Hotel Malabar’s production the images swim past without ever coming into focus, and the wealth of visual intrigue is somewhat nullified by a lack of coherence.

Two men tell us stories about one child’s struggle to discover the owner of a key while telling us the story of his family. A frenzied chalk map on the floor is simultaneously Manhattan, the World Trade Center and a family tree, and slowly becomes scuffed throughout the performance, which features frenzied attempts to reconstruct a narrative from very little available material. Puppets, masks and overcoats stand in the place of other humans, whilst a projection gives us images and figures where necessary. An ethereal soundtrack by Charlotte Wilde means that the brutal truth of loss presented on stage is underscored by music which places it in another world.

Marcin Bartnikowski and Marcin Bikowski work up a sweat as they span almost sixty years of human history, and perform in a suitably knowing way considering the hypertheatrical style, but their performances lack heart and precision. When playing this many characters, we need to know to whom we are going and when, and sometimes their focus strays, making it even harder to deconstruct.

Lauder! takes inspiration from Hamlet, with the attempt of one young boy to get to know himself better a clear throughline through both plays. But the scenes chosen to open up to contemplation are the infamous Act Three, Scene One and Yorick, so that all we get is re-hashed jokes about Shakespeare’s meditations on life and death rather than the irreverent insight the piece is attempting.

The production, directed by Michael Vogel, is joyful and innocent but lacks a throughline, either of theme or narrative. One extraordinary moment sees a webcam film a photograph burning, the camera recording the flames licking the paper in such a way that it feels slowed down. The fire continues in a drawer whilst it’s projected onto the screen in the stilted way of Skype conversations. It’s a beautiful, simple image, and manages to capture the notion of destroyed history perfectly. It’s just a shame there aren’t more of them.

Company: Theatr Hotel Malabar
Venue: Summerhall, till 16 August 2013
Time: 16.30


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