EFR - Reviews of Bluebeard

Bluebeard

Fri 2nd – Sat 17th August 2013

reviews

Florence Strickland

at 09:52 on 3rd Aug 2013

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Expecting to see the traditional story of murdered wives in a secret chamber, I was confronted with three characters in a care unit – I panicked that I had walked into the wrong play. However, what was revealed was more than a single story. Trinity Fringe Productions presented Howard Coase and Douglas Grant’s intelligent and moving composition of the intricately woven elements that create the map of one’s life.

Becky Banatvala as Claire Conomor declines in the wake of dementia in the stereotypical plainness of a home. This provides the backdrop for the vivid memories and delusions with which Banatvala skilfully reveals the layers of her character over a series of measured time frames. Between the ingenuity of her subtle physical differentiations, to the tone of her voice and look in her eye, her performance was next to faultless. The spectrum of emotions that she led us through were complex, and yet she did so with ease.

Equally Howard Coase as David, and Claire Bowman as Emily, completed the dexterity of the trio through their roles as Claire’s children. The script demanded they play various characters as we were led through the unravelling mind of their mother. Their fluidity made this process uncomplicated. The seamless motions that were a result of successful direction created the shifts between past, present, and imaginings. All that was needed was the dimming and brightening of a light to complete the image.

Both Coase and Bowman presented the equal pain of their situation through the defining elements of the characters that they crafted. Both sides of the morality of euthanasia – in the light of their mother’s illness - were sensitively raised through their often opposing temperaments.

There were no scenes of wild emotion, but only the self-contained unity that this performance used to present the important moments that may or may not direct the course of a life, and the lives surrounding it.

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Shirley Halse

at 09:59 on 3rd Aug 2013

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If you’re expecting a wealthy, mysterious aristocrat with an unhealthy obsession for marriage then you’ll spend half of this performance convinced you’ve had a major venue-related cock-up. Not even five minutes in it’ll probably occur to you that this seemingly fatal misplacement was nothing short of God’s divine intervention and you can easily get your horror fix on another occasion. By the end you’ll know, on many levels, that this was exactly the right place for you.

Names aside, this is a play that will break your heart and also make you laugh. Sometimes simultaneously. Howard Coase and Douglas Grant have written an absolutely spot-on depiction of dementia, exploring its painful effects for both the sufferer and their surrounding family. Sadly this is now the sort of ending that many people will recognise, slowly losing a relative to cerebral death, whilst their body continues to survive, and it definitely strikes true to experience.

The show conveys the impact of the disease with a sincerity and respect, particularly by giving voice to the sufferer herself, Claire Conomor (it has been noted that ill people in fiction usually exist for the benefit and education of well people). Whilst in the present, Claire is losing the power of language, in a series of flashbacks she proves to be, or to have been, a very exciting and eloquent woman. The painful brilliance is that these scenes of lucidity suggest Claire is still trapped somewhere inside the body that has betrayed her.

The writing is clearly quick and articulate, but it is the incredible work of the small cast, which gives life to dying. Both Howard Coase and Claire Bowman have clearly put a lot of work into each of their various characters, with each part being distinguishable through vocal and physical differences. Becky Banatvala as Claire is superb; she portrays the frail confusion of a dying woman and the vivacious energy of her younger self with seamless switches between the two. Part of the power of this small cast develops from their ability to pull off many different roles. At one moment, Coase and Bowman are the aggressors, at the next they are her children again, later they are her former friends. This constant change gives an added impression of the confusion that the disease generates.

This sad struggle to communicate and maintain an identity whilst dying is visually and emotionally compelling. It is certainly worth going to see, either mistakenly or in earnest.

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