first night

STOCKHOLM

Natasha Cowley is moved by the beauty of STOCKHOLM

STOCKHOLM

 
****
 
3DTC, Assembly Rooms Theatre
 
Performances: Thursday, Friday and Saturday 20th-22nd October 7:30
Matinee: Saturday 22nd 2:30
 
As the first note of music filtered through the Assembly Rooms theatre, and the chorus of hurried whispers prepares the audience’s attention for the second show of this academic year, something dawned on me: having previously seen these two performers in the wonderful A World Without Words, a show which communicated a heart-wrenching love story through the medium of movement, had I seen all of this already?
 
Luckily, I was soon reassured that this would not be the case. Stockholm is a symphony of witty dialogue and fast-paced, complex choreography which reflects and explores the rhythms of the turbulent relationship between Todd and Kali. All set to a careful collection of music creating the soundtrack to their lives, the audience begin to sense a cyclical pattern of dysfunction as the pair are moved from love to obsession, become disorientated by jealousy and lost in violence before sinking back into remorse and a strange tainted forgiveness.
 
There are some vastly complicated themes running through this script without even considering adding an intricate score of movement as well. Some might argue that university students should not look to attempt a piece previously performed by a company as renowned and polished as Frantic Assembly, but when the direction, choreography and performances are as fluid as they are here, I would argue that shying away from this ambitious piece of theatre would have been a real loss.
 
A whitewashed portrait of a home for two, punctuated from above by ten bare hanging bulbs which created the framework for a truly stunning lighting design by Hannah Gregory, the stage creates a blank canvas against which the actors could create the story.
 
Fortunately the need for an immediate bond between the two leads is met; their love is one of obsession, of clingy, hyperactive, insecure devotion which is both beautiful and unnerving. No problems there; Paul Moss (Todd) and Emma Cave (Kali) have an undeniably effervescent chemistry on stage. They are so clearly comfortable with each other that it made the piece engaging and easy to watch, whilst the direction rarely allowed space between them to breathe.
 
The entire piece moves with poise and professionalism, but for a moment of real comic understanding, the prize goes to the oral sex intermission, the first time that I felt that buzz of an audience unified in laughter. Moss’ use of pacing in this part of the text was sublime, and he connected with the demands of the writing perfectly.
 
This piece is saturated with such contrasts between brash comedy and an unsettling worship of each other, and unfortunately there were certain moments where I didn’t really feel the switch between them strongly enough. I did feel that some areas of the textual nuances were made a low priority where they should have been attacked with as much enthusiasm as the dancing.
 
The real sensation of the piece came in the form of a mesmerizing fight scene in the kitchen, as they throw each other around the stage as easily as they throw domestic objects, crashing together and tearing apart with the music which was, unfortunately, not loud enough to echo their screaming intensity. The acting is at its most convincing here and I didn’t feel for one moment unsafe, as they seem to predict each other’s slightest move, exerting a terrifying, dizzying control over the insanity.
 
  Some of the funnier moments, which could have been tweaked to perfection with a little more time taken over delivery, were lost in what seemed to be an eagerness in the pair to reach the next section of movement. This show is a must-see for anyone who is interested in physical theatre, or who wants to experience something unique on the Durham Theatre scene.  Even this observer, who knows next to nothing about movement, dance or anything of the sort (find me in Klute at the weekend and you’ll see what I mean…) knows that this is something truly special. See it.
 
Natasha Cowley.

21 October 2011

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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