Tristan Bates Theatre
13 August 2013
|From the artist's website, here.|
A powerful piece of lyric theatre, in which impressions are more significant than reflection on the drama.
This is Petar Miloshevki's second monodrama, following the acclaimed HOPE of a few years ago. If you liked the earlier piece, you'll love this.
He adopts a similar modernist approach to the text, comprising of fragments from 7 authors, including whole poems from some. We then witness Miloshevski creating what appears to be a single character, of ambiguous gender, enacting these texts in a number of scenes, or miming during musical interludes.
The flyer for the Camden Fringe Festival suggests the result is a symphony: but a closer musical metaphor would be a theme and variations. For the result is not dramatic, as is the aim in the central symphonic tradition, and indeed in the central theatrical tradition, of course.
Perhaps this is an attempt at lyrical theatre, rather than dramatic. A personality (or several) is evoked, a mysterious overall impression given, rather than much sense of forward momentum. While the ordering of the scenes isn't random, the audience's sense of progress is extremely limited.
Likewise any sense the audience might have of meaning, any more than a dream might have meaning. This surrealistic extremity is probably the major difference between this work and those of say, Samuel Beckett, where the dream is a demeanour, and doesn't go all the way down.
This is a thoroughgoing piece of surrealism, and the effect is something closer to theatre without drama. The greatest instance of that is the circus, and sometimes Miloshevski appears to celebrate virtuosity for its own sake, but for the most part the circus, with its implications of pure theatrical joy, is not an appropriate comparison.
However, the value of a dramatic artwork is that it demands a certain type of reflection afterwards, with the quality of that reflection mapping the quality of the art. Lyric art doesn't work in the same way: all we can comment on is the effect at the time. This makes lyric theatre especially transient.
The impression I had at the time was one of violent, mostly captivating, expression. And Miloshevski is an expressionistic actor, full of grimaces and extreme reaction, even extreme slowness at times.
Thankfully he is charismatic, and able to maintain interest over an hour, but the piece could benefit from longer quieter stretches; the intensity sometimes becomes monotonous. There is also a jarring intrusion by Carl Sandburg's poem 'They all want to play Hamlet', which came across as an actorly in-joke, and like all such jokes is unfunny for everyone else.