The Marked

Fri 5th – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Isobel Roser

at 09:16 on 9th Aug 2016

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Following on from their huge success with ‘The Fantasist’, Theatre Témoin are back with their much anticipated show ‘The Marked’. Set amongst the rubbish bins and sprawling waste of inner city London, ‘The Marked’ offers an entrancing commentary on the demonic powers of addiction and homelessness. Puppetry, performance and sound combine to create a haunting world of demons and saviours. Bewitching and beguiling, this show is nothing short of spellbinding.

Devised through consultation with a number of organisations who support the homeless, ‘The Marked’ certainly has a real level of authenticity. At the beginning of the production we meet Jack, a young Scouser portrayed by Bradley Thompson, who is sleeping rough after the death of his alcoholic mother. The ghosts of childhood trauma continue to haunt Jack into adulthood. A story of neglect and forgotten love soon becomes apparent, jolting the audience to consider the human behind the homeless figure. Broad-arching metaphors provide the framework for this internal struggle. The innocence of hopefulness is symbolised by Jack’s toy torch from childhood, which he sees as a source of protection and comfort. This symbolism is soon translated to Sophie, a homeless and heavily pregnant woman whom Jack meets on the streets. Jack craves motherly love, a theme which endures throughout the production.

Metaphorical demons provide the foil to Jack’s symbol of hope and refuge. Alongside masked figures representing people from Jack’s past, the symbolic demons are constantly lurking, ready to strike at any moment. The tall, skeletal creatures thrust a bottle into the hands of Jack’s mother, enveloping her in their clutching talons.

Ingeniously crafted, the demon puppets effortlessly combine the source of Jack’s nightmares with elements drawn from his homeless reality. Harsh sounds of the street are used to provide further unease to the demon sequences; the sharp echoes of bottles smashing punctuate the soundtrack. Lighting is used to effectively here, offering the audience only short glimpses of the monstrous demons haunting Jack.

Theatre Témoin utilise aspects from physical theatre to great effect within ‘The Marked’. Slow-motion sequences depict the uneasy turmoil of Jack’s inner psyche, while the pulsing energy of the demons draws on a certain balletic quality. Dorie Kinnear and Tom Stacy cross the stage with bird-like movements as they depict the supersized pigeons of Jack’s fantasies. The cast, who take on multiple roles and handle puppets, are convincing in their depiction of a world where reality and imagination collide.

A thought-provoking production, ‘The Marked’ offers a sensitive portrayal of homelessness, addiction and neglect. Simple storytelling and visual spectacle combine to create a marvellous piece of theatre, providing an unflinching insight into the scars left by childhood trauma.

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Toby Clyde

at 10:03 on 9th Aug 2016

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The real monsters of this world come from somewhere far, far more awful than reality. Millennia ago, Grendel emerged from the dark places of human myth: ‘and stealthy night-shapes came stealing forth under the cloud mirk’. He never left, and ‘The Marked’, in its beautiful exploration of childhood trauma, knows this.

For a brief moment, this show takes the dirty, awful sadness of addiction and tells another story along side it, one of puppets and daemons and our battle for the light. Inspired by real experiences of homelessness, this show reaches into the cloud mirk to draw out something mythical, painful and transcendent.

Of course, there is nothing magical about the London back alley where Jack sleeps (played with intense feeling by Bradley Thompson). The play follows him as he wakes from a nightmare; drawn in, thanks to a chance encounter, to the complex and abusive relationship of another homeless couple, Sophie and Pete (Dorie Kinnear and Tom Stacy). But his dreams of monsters, talking pigeons and breaking bottles are increasingly real, intruding on his waking moments as ragged and primal looking puppets. Armed with a torch and an air of warm, childlike, honesty, he must descend into the gorgeously layered set of this production to reclaim something lost a long time ago.

Layered is perhaps the perfect word for what Theater Témoin has achieved in this début performance. Trialed earlier this year at the Brighton Fringe, ‘The Marked’ received a mixed reception, in part, due to a slightly unfocused plot that attempted to explain Jack’s childhood world in greater detail. Here, his past is far more vague and instead the bulging and shifting environment tells a far better story as the real and mythical lose their definition. With a special kind of theatre magic, the three cast members are everywhere at once, manipulating an intensely atmospheric array of creatures - some frightening, some very funny. The detail of these things, their long spindly claws and rugged monolithic faces, could almost be a show in itself.

But this is not to detract from the actors themselves. Kinnear’s vulnerable yet strong expectant mother, or Stacy’s brutal but loving boyfriend, root the show’s monsters in a world that is devastatingly real. Informed by extensive consultation, ‘The Marked’ has a deadly serious point to make, about addiction, homelessness and a universal desire for security.

For some, this wondrous production might lose itself a little too much in dreams and puppets. But for me, those old, old faces reach back into the primal darkness to tell a fundamental story.

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Comments

Catherine Turner; 9th Aug 2016; 18:37:41

Beautifully performed and designed, this is a piece I will remember for a long time. Am hoping to see it again while I am here!

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