Belle of Amherst: Double Vision

William Luce’s dramatisation of the life and times of nineteenth-century poet Emily Dickinson, draws directly and extensively on excerpts from Dickinson’s own works and letters, giving an entertaining and informative insight into the real and imagined workings of her mind.Dickinson was a fascinating character: a literary radical, rebel and recluse. In this production, actress Kathleen Ann Thompson seizes these eccentricities and portrays them with gusto as she flits around the stage with a somewhat overacted lunacy, which aims to capture the free spirit of the avant-garde poet. Thompson offers two perspectives on the one woman play, interpreting it by turns through dance and drama on alternate performances (see her website for details). The performance discussed here was the drama version but, even so, the spoken word was often accompanied by dance, which more often than not felt shaky and contrived.Belle of Amherst is an extremely wordy piece that darts around, frequently shifting between different places, times and characters, requiring notable concentration and at times patience on the part of the audience. The most impressive thing about this production is Thompson’s ability to carry off this challenging role with confidence, clarity and absolute conviction, not faltering once in the 70 minutes of stage action. She builds her Amherst home in the black box space with only a writing desk and net pavilion as set, and a few key props. Overall, however, this production comes over as self-indulgent and would benefit from stronger direction.

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The Blurb

Emily Dickinson - myth, lunatic, poet? One production, two perspectives, performed alternately - drama or dance. An unmediated experience of body and soul, poetry in movement. ‘Must not be over-looked’ **** (San Diego Union). www.edfringe.com/shows/BelleofAmherst:DoubleVision

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