Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (A Rave Fable)

Fri 4th – Sat 12th August 2017

reviews

Claire Louise Richardson

at 10:03 on 6th Aug 2017

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Performed by a group called Clumsy Bodies, a new theatre company based in Battersea, this piece began its work at Kings’ College London. The writer has played with some diverse and difficult themes, starting with a focus on innocence and parental control and moving towards femicide; with inspiration from Latin America and Greek mythology driving this contemporary piece. Iphigenia is a Grecian princess, played by talented Jess-Rahman Gonzalez, in a tragic story centred upon her relationship with her father. The name of their group ‘Clumsy Bodies’ is quite inaccurate as their choreography and delivery were fantastic. The clumsiness here was only in the sense of unifying the different ideas and problems which arose from the dense, poetic script. Also, there was no indication as to why the title really had to be so long and ridiculous.

The first half of the play focused upon Iphigenia’s relationship with her controlling father who confines and abuses her. He treats her like a pawn in his own political advances, which was shown with the use of a projector screen backdrop showing pre-recorded material of a press conference, and other aspects of video and photography. This added an exciting dimension to the play, and a window to the outside world in a section focused on restriction. Iphigenia interacts with a poor girl who describes how Iphigenia is ‘at the mercy of [her] father… like a piece of chicken’; highlighting how, in the show, the female body is shown to be seen as a piece of meat. There is a clear focus in this section on Iphigenia’s beauty, innocence and virginity, with some fantastic dramatic speeches from both Rahman Gonzalez, and her father, the general Adolfo, played by Mickey Shaw.

Throughout the whole play, there were some extremely capable actors who dealt with particularly difficult physical material on stage, as well as their dense poetic script. Especially so in the second half when the pent-up energy and tension that was so confined is released into a mad, energy fuelled sex scene of ‘guerilla ballerinas’ that gives wings to the marginalised voices that form the play’s climax. Achilles, who is a bit like the devil, and played by Sam Kindon, makes an incredible impression in his scene when he enters the play to seduce Iphigenia. However, there was too much going on for a single voice to truly be heard amidst the chaos on stage in the second half. Towards the end the plot becomes impossible to follow, and as the play approaches its final 75 minutes it is ready to end. The strobe lights are out of control and the sexual drama becomes too much once the characters have handed the audience popcorn to eat while this part is watched. Nevertheless, there are still some sensitive and touching moments in this final section, - Iphigenia breaking hearts when telling the audience ‘I don’t know what tenderness is, I look for it all the time.’ Overall, the actors again were brilliant, but their material perhaps just too much, needing some simplification, despite its tasteful and talented handling.

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Ela Portnoy

at 12:02 on 6th Aug 2017

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You are a reviewer for an Edinburgh Fringe newspaper. You consider yourself pretty well-versed in theatre. But sometimes, you see something that just makes you think ‘what in actual hell am I witnessing?’ That’s the case with Iphigenia et al. I don’t know the story and I couldn’t tell you now. There were definite themes; loss of innocence, growing up, sexual awakening. The main focus in this production is not the story itself, it’s the atmosphere, the poetry, and the ensemble work. For me, theatre is about telling a story to a live audience, so that they come out having felt something or learnt something. This production was just not meant for an audience; it was a bonding exercise for the actors.

Having caught the cast after the show, they explained their thinking to me. For example, they gave the audience popcorn at one point to make the audience be ‘complicit onlookers’ to the tragedies that happened in the play. All I got was that we were given popcorn out of the blue. The guy next to me looked at me with a half-smile as he handed me the bag, as if to say ‘we both know this is weird’. There is no point being ‘meta’ if that doesn’t mean anything for the audience. It felt like a pretentious group of students trying to be edgy.

Having said that, I might be old-fashioned in my thinking. Clearly a lot of thought and a lot of rehearsing has gone into this piece, and it was much better executed than a lot of shows I have seen at the fringe. The ensemble work should be commended: the dancing was good, the relationships were comfortable and the cast seemed as though they were a group of best friends even though they had never met until this play. Although the focus, passion and dedication was there, the acting was not up to scratch. The main character was sadly lacking expression; she could do an innocent face and a mildly concerned face. The rest were better or worse with varying degrees but it was a shame to see such a committed cast unable to enter a characters’ mind and feelings. They excelled at bringing out the poetic sounds of the script, but it was style without content, which to me is worthless. It is good to explore different themes in art, to stretch the boundaries of what is considered quality, and to take people out of their comfort zones. To this end, the production was successful, but it’s just not meant for a live audience.

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