Emotive, impassioned and poetic, Evocation uses puppetry and poetry to tell the story of Marie-Anne, a young girl in fin de siècle Brighton. It attempts to explain the popularity of Albert Giraud’s Pierrot Lunaire at the time it was written, to use clowning both traditionally and innovatively, and to accurately translate Giraud’s poems into English. In this 40-minute play, Théâtre Volière in collaboration with La SoupeCie made some bold, interesting choices, but unfortunately not all of them paid off.

A fascinating means of analysing Giraud’s work in translation.

This performance is based on a collection of French poems written in 1884. The concept for this piece was created by Mick Wood, who also translated the poems to English. Each audience member was given a copy of the poems both in English and French, which allowed those who speak both languages to see the variations in word-order and rhyme scheme. Though the translations were well done, the concept was much more difficult for the audience to understand. This was because of the multiple elements used to convey this tale, and the ideas could have been executed far better had they not so heavily relied on puppetry, clowning, movement and projection to tell this story.

The part of Marie Anne was played with conviction by Audrey L’Ebrellec. She managed to depict a wide scope of emotions in a very short amount of time, using puppets and different accents to portray other characters. Despite this, she had a tendency to over-dramatise the poems, making even those with lighter themes seem serious. This altered the mood of the performance, making it difficult to follow what was happening emotionally. With the dependence on multiple effects, this piece would have benefitted from a more naturalistic approach to the poetry.

Despite the small playing area, space was used incredibly well in this performance. The production utilised three screens of varying colour and transparency to project onto and to convey different times and places. The middle of these three was a red and white striped piece of material with a rectangular cut-out, reminiscent of Punch and Judy-style puppetry, which fit well with the theme of clowning and the traditional British seaside setting of this story.

With elements of clowning, puppetry, poetry, projection and physical theatre, this performance unfortunately bit off more than it could chew, but conceptually it was a fascinating means of analysing Giraud’s work in translation. However, as a little known fin de siècle writer, a simpler portrayal of this work would have been far more effective.

Reviews by Angela O'Callaghan

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The Blurb

This Edinburgh premiere finds Pierrot Lunaire in a tragic love story set in fin de siècle Brighton. By turns shocking and tender, erotic and cruel, Evocation is an unholy collision between Antoine Arlot's original drone noise score and La SoupeCie's gothic puppetry, with a new English translation of Giraud's symbolist classic. Critical acclaim for previous Off-West End Award nominated production Consolation: 'Another exceptional piece of work from Théâtre Volière' ***** (ViewsFromTheGods.co.uk). 'Nothing like anything you're likely to see on the Fringe or the West End' ***** (FemaleArts.com). 'Transcending international boundaries' (ThePlaysTheThingUK.com).