This double bill of Howard Barker’s work features the
London premiere of
There are some very interesting ideas employed – particularly in Rosanna Vize’s decision to set The Twelfth Battle of Isonzo in pitch black.
With work such as The Castle to his name, Barker sets very high expectations or at least hopes with any new work he releases. Unfortunately these expectations are not met. There are some very interesting ideas employed – particularly in Rosanna Vize’s decision to set The Twelfth Battle of Isonzo in pitch black. However this technique is never fully realised due to the headphones that the audience use to listen to the show have small but visible green lights, meaning one is constantly distracted by their fellow audience members, and the concept of complete darkness is not in fact ever achieved.
Such a simple problem like having headphones that are not functioning can be seriously damaging to a production that relies on its technology, and when in a darkened theatre, it’s very difficult to work out how to turn them back on. This cost me the first ten minutes of the dialogue. Little technical issues such as these are easily overlooked but are essential in these circumstances.
Incorporating headphones may have been a way of enhancing the feeling of otherworldliness towards this place of darkness. It may have been to symbolise a more ongoing conversation or story from a different time, however unfortunately it served to make one feel a bit like they were listening to a radio play. Because the dialogue is pre-recorded the immediacy of the theatrical experience is to a large degree lost. Some of the lines felt ill-timed, as though they’d been through an editing suite and cut together without matching appropriately. It is a great attempt and almost achieves its aims, but due to a few problems acts to severely detract from the show.
The technique of being in pitch black is interesting, yet the use of occasional lighting to highlight an object or person could have been used more, or at more relevant points. It felt they were simply chosen for dramatic effect rather than any logic, which is fair enough but for pure drama’s sake more lighting would have benefited the production.
Judith: A Parting from the Body suffered more from the actors having not settled into their roles at such an early point in their run. The exception is Kristin Hutchinson as the Servant. She is constantly connected, funny and truthful in her portrayal of the role. The direction does give the feel of an overly ‘staged’ play however. There is very little that is interesting or ground breaking in the physical score of the actors, though the set design does provide a good backdrop to the action. One hopes that further down the production, the cast will finally fit into their roles, but at this point it does feel a touch disconnected, whether this is a result from the cast or the director’s choices.
Overall though there were some interesting avenues taken with these pieces, as a whole work they did not live up to the high expectations that are raised by Barker’s reputation.