An Account of a Savage

Wed 3rd – Sat 13th August 2016

reviews

Emily Cole

at 09:26 on 6th Aug 2016

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With a synopsis featuring a discovered feral child, 'civilizing' doctors, and physical theatre, I inevitably anticipated horror, disturbance and fear from this production. Unsurprisingly, these were all fulfilled, but the most overwhelming emotion I felt leaving the venue was discomfort, from both the harshness of the subject matter, and the often awkward portrayals of it.

The experience of this production was nothing short of a rollercoaster of horror and emotion, met with excitement and unease. Much like the structure of the play - an ongoing plotline teamed with intermittent snippets of horror and physical theatre - the performances would match expectations, then suddenly exhibit snippets of poor theatre, making the whole experience surreal, but not in the way it intended.

The opening narration that should have been eerie was wobbly, with the lines lacking any sense of expression. Often, the physical theatre seemed resurrected from GCSE drama performances. In the first half, it seemed the performers associated powerful acting with making as much noise as possible: a rather unbearable technique. Nevertheless, where these authenticities were absent initially, they were very much present in the physical theatre of the second half, delivering scenes that were quite possibly some of the most horrifying performances I have ever watched. If you have a clown phobia, you have been warned.

Joan, the feral child, played by Louise Catherwood, was the highlight of the production. Undertaking a role which could have easily become comically awkward, Catherwood succeeded in creating something genuinely inhuman. The way she carried herself evoked genuine fear and an overwhelming sense of pity for her; quite a feat for a dialogue consisting of mere grunts.

Similarly, Olly Webb and Hannah Marquez as the more considerate Dr. Harold Latimer and the maternal Rose Meyer stabilised the production. Their presence on stage re-immersed the audience back into the world of the play, and away from the distractions of the first half. They portrayed genuine concern for Joan, be it from Webb’s warm flicker of the eyes, to Marquez’s ability to smile whilst conveying deep pain and anguish in hers.

The play as a whole struck me as having hidden gems of remarkable acting, scattered across a production that often didn’t quite match the same standard. Yet I cannot stop thinking or wanting to discuss the performance. The heavy feeling of horrifying discomfort has still managed to stick with me, even hours after seeing it and, for that reason, this production has to, ultimately, be considered a success.

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Frances Ball

at 10:50 on 6th Aug 2016

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Walking into the room, you can anticipate how striking a production An Account of a Savage will be from the very start. The cast of four wait in the performing space, close to you – this is at heart a close, visceral piece. Indeed, it would be difficult for it not to be, given the subject matter.

A girl, who was raised by wolves, has been found and brought into human society. She is subjected to all manner of ‘civilising’ processes – the show excels at laying bare some cutting questions of what it really means to be human. It’s as profound as it sounds, and it more than succeeds in mastering a broad and difficult subject.

An Account of a Savage uses visual play, but more than anything it plays off sound. Guttural, painful screams convey emotion more than any human language, and in fact, the script feels almost secondary to the sheer range of animalistic noises and powerful music that the production relies on. Where there is dialogue, it’s condensed into self-consciously dramatic speech.

The premise of the show allows for the philosophical tone of the script, and the actors work from it admirably, particularly Hannah Marquez, who reduced some of the audience to tears at her monologue toward the end of the show. In fact, Marquez gives a strong performance throughout, perfectly balancing her concern for the girl from the woods with a subtle portrayal of her character's personal life. However, it is Louise Catherwood as Joan, the ‘savage’ raised by wolves, who steals the show. Her performance is more animal than human, and she conveys so much emotion in her body language alone. She is mesmerising to watch. Catherwood also performs the more touching moments of the play superbly well, with the psychologist figure Dr Harold Latimer (Olly Webb) playing off her performance to great effect.

The set is simple but poignant, made to look like a child’s nursery – which sets the deeply uncomfortable scenes of the play in sharp contrast. It’s very, very intimate and the small room leaves little place to hide: this is not, by any means, an easy watch. It isn't meant to be, though, and it works well because while the dialogue asks direct questions – “can I call a bee an artist?” – it also leaves the audience to question what they think of as ethical treatment.

Catherwood is pitch perfect and is joined by a strong cast. While the sheer closeness of the production might feel overpowering at times, for the acting skill, the philosophical strength of the story, and the smooth directorship, it is certainly worth a watch.

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