Belt Up's 'Lorca is Dead'

The title doesn’t exactly sell the show as an evening of mirth and anarchy. Apart from the mention of death, Spanish playwright and artist Frederick Garcia Lorca wasn’t know for his comedy. However, this is a production brought to by Belt Up so it was bound to be different. They have quite a reputation in Edinburgh, and this year have brought several shows to the Fringe. Their work is innovative and pushes the boundaries of what might be called conventional theatre. In fact this piece is only loosely about the death of Lorca at the hands of The Facists in 1936. We are greeted on the stairway by members of the Bureau Of Surrealist Research who tell us what the evening is going to be about. As we walk further towards the space we are each asked to provide an animal noise which is noted down on a clip board. Thence into the room the story will unfold in. It’s a nicely recreated early 20th century salon, with period furniture, drapes, wardrobes and many cushions and we all sit round the walls to observe the action. Some of the publicity describes this piece as interactive and site-specific. Well, it isn’t really. If it were site specific we would be taken to a real salon. What we have here is a room in C Soco made to look like one. In other words it’s a set In a theatre. Sitting us on cushions doesn’t make it site-specific.Interactive it certainly is. Member of the audience are 'encouraged' to join in (well, pulled up on stage) so this is not for the faint-hearted. It is great fun though. We meet the members of the surrealist movement, Dali, Bunuel, Magritte, Breton and others and amongst much mayhem and surrealist slapstick (everyone running into a seemingly Tardis-like wardrobe, for example). There are some terrific moments, but there are intrinsic difficulties with performing this kind of loosely structured work. I felt the actors were in slightly different plays in their style, from some bravura and 'big' declaiming, through some neat and precise physical work, to some seriously vocally underpowered and very naturalistic playing from one of the cast.There is also a huge shift in tone towards the end, when things for our latter day Pythons go from bad to worse, Dali declaims he is Surrealism when expelled from the movement and, of course, Lorca is murdered. This last section felt like a different piece. This is not helped by the fact the room is unbearably hot, and audience and performers alike would have benefited from the play being fifteen minutes shorter. In case you think I’m being an overcritical critic (!), two young ladies opposite me, who were laughing and smiling through most of it, were actually nodding off towards the end.So dark is the ending that we are informed peremptorily that things are over and we must leave. No chance to applaud afforded. I realise that is part of the style of this kind of work, but it’s a weird one for the audience, almost like having great sex then being denied an orgasm.I’m not sure there’s any point in reviewing this work. It’s clearly good and entertaining (and in this case very educational), but it defies the rules we have come to expect from theatre so it’s difficult to get a sense of what’s working and what’s not. What I would say is the theatre has been around for thousands of years and the 'rules' have evolved because they work. If you’re going to break them, you will be different, but not necessarily better.

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The Blurb

The anarchic and frantic attempts of the Paris Surrealists to tell the story of the death of Lorca. From award-winning Belt Up Theatre: 'One of the hottest tickets on the Fringe' ***** (WhatsOnStage.com on 'The Tartuffe'). www.beltuptheatre.com

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