An incredibly ambitious production, House of Tragic She combines dance, physical theatre, song, electronic music and projection with the words of literary characters and writers. Using verbatim extracts from such influential figures as Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys and Charlotte Bronte, the piece explores the stigmatization of mental health. Given the incredible bank of material it has at its fingertips, and the important and emotive issue it wishes to address, there is something disappointingly underwhelming about this production.
House of Tragic She has the makings of an incredibly powerful production, and it investigates what is indisputably a very important subject.
House of Tragic She suffers from a lack of amplification. It is made up of exciting and innovative elements, but few are executed with adequate power. Much of the dance and spoken word is underperformed and lacks emotional intensity. Its music, which is often very beautiful and well composed, is simply not loud enough to fill the small performance space. The creative idea of projecting images onto a hospital screen is uninteresting in its realisation, the projection being too small and the room too light for the films, which are in themselves unimpressive. Lighting design also needs improvement, as the initial naturalistic wash does not change for a considerable portion of the piece. This is not a realistic production, so the use of such a bland lighting state seems an act of unnecessary reservation.
Other parts of the production are simply poorly conceived. Items of clothing with words such as ‘INSANE’ blazoned across them seem rather crude, whilst much of the choreography is clumsy, and occasionally reminiscent of GCSE drama exercises. The way in which sentences are sometimes split between the three performers feels similarly juvenile.
However, at moments the piece is truly compelling. Roxanna Klimaszewska is the stand out performer, as both the most accomplished dancer and passionate speaker. Her performance does justice to the words she voices, and at moments allows the audience access to the heart of what the show is trying to achieve. The end of the play, in which the three actors sing in beautiful harmony, employs all of the mediums used over the course of the production at once, and the result is wonderfully captivating.
House of Tragic She has the makings of an incredibly powerful production, and it investigates what is indisputably a very important subject. As it stands, however, it lacks the energy, fluidity and intensity needed to match the greatness of the women who inspire it.