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Monday, 24 November 2008

Comlexity vs Simplicity

A Disappearing Number by Complicite and Mind Out by Station House Opera.

The Barbican Theatre is absolutely lovely, I hadn't been there in a while. The doors close the audience in, leaving the rest of the world far away preparing us to be engrossed in a performance. Unfortunately was not engrossing. It was rather shallow.

The piece told the story of an Indian mathematician in the 18/early 1900s and a teacher studying the mathematician's theories in the present day. The company used complex maths as the central topic. There was then a number of threads from this which were a relationship, the mathematician moving to Cambridge and an overall theme that everything in life is connected; something happening in India in the early 1900s is connected to an event in England today.

The piece constantly flipped between India and England, past and present. Flipped in a literal term as there was a screen in the middle of the stage where characters and centuries changed as the screen reversed and characters ran through it.

The play was very visually pleasing, projections of hundreds of numbers running across the screen and live video offering different perspectives of scene. The design was precise and well thought out. However this was the only part of the play that was precise. I found the transitions between scenes too fast and clunky. This play did not seem to have any heart, it was rushed through. I was waiting for a moment of climax in the piece, a moment of excitement but it did not happen. However the play was moving at an exciting pace but it felt that each scene did not have any time to develop. There was so much going on between set, maths, music and costumes that I could not connect with any of the characters which left the story quite, well, empty! The complex maths even more complex layering was just far too confused.

This was an extended run of this play, maybe it had been over done, so that it wasn't fresh? Did any one else seen the play? I would be interested to hear comments!

Mind Out by Station House Opera was incredibly simple and tremendously effective. Each performer was separated in mind and body. Each performer commanded an others actions and there were multiple relationships happening which shifted constantly.

The performance had a good pace with small situations building up to anarchic scenarios as the performers' evil side emerged. Identity and free will were toyed with and the characters personalities were built through their actions, commanded by another. Each performer determined situations to benefit themselves and they became selfish. The performers were all out for themselves!

Mind Out is rather surreal, the occurrence of three musicians with performers in a freeze frame, is a image that comes to mind. Pace, great acting, focus on content and extension of one idea made the piece very effective.

A Disappearing Number was so busy and complicated that I couldn't connect, couldn't feel anything because I could not get through. And Mind Out was honest (if that's the right word) by leading direct route to the heart of the performance as soon as you enter the theatre. No fuss, just performance!


Anonymous said...

Interesting review, Joanne, though I don't share your perspective on Complicite. It's a beautifully lyrical piece, with plenty of thematic and structural complexity and indeed real drama (didn't you feel anything when she lost the baby?). A fascinating exploration of the inter-relationship of humanity with mathematical patterns, a love story, and a study of cross cultural relations. I didn't actually see Mind Out in its final form - but I guess I'm glad you enjoyed it, because at rehearsal stage maybe it looked was a little unexciting.... Anyway. Don't give up on Complicite! W

Anonymous said...

Hi annon
I too saw the Mind Out piece at open rehearsals and it was far far more interesting at BAC than the rehearsal was.

Joanne said...

Mind Out was an great example of a simple idea with a complex message. For me, A Dissapearing Number was trying to fit too much in and failing by presenting such themes (that you mention anon) but not executing them. I could see what the peice weas saying but it felt as the the themes were underdeveloped