The Crossing Place

Fri 4th – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

Katrina Gaffney

at 09:24 on 20th Aug 2017

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Having been at the Fringe for approximately twelve hours I was beginning to wonder when I would experience my first truly bizarre moment. My question was answered at the beginning of 'The Crossing Place' when I witnessed three grown men breaking out of the bin bags they had been wrapped in. Set in the Upper Church at Summer Hall, the set for 'The Crossing Place' seemed to bare a resemblance to an abandoned warehouse, with a massive pile of bin bags taking up a good proportion of the stage. I was certainly intrigued by the set and this feeling of curiousness characterises my attitude towards most of the performance.

The show was a visual theatre piece based on the poetry of Tomas Tranströmer, whose work I had previously been unfamiliar with. I do wonder whether my understanding and enjoyment of the show might have been altered had I previously read some of his poetry. But as it stands I was left confused by this attempt to merge the two mediums. There were many moments when the actions of the performers did not seem to compliment the poetry that was being read aloud. I was left feeling confused as to what the performance was trying to convey and for me this hampered my enjoyment of the show considerably.

Individual components of the show had their merits. There were moments when I felt truly enthralled by the choreography. Whilst they got off to to a slow start, the energy of the performers did crescendo to the point where they were truly captivating. It was in particular the interactions between the performers that provided some of the most memorable moments of the show. However, there were also many moments that felt as if 'The Crossing Place' ventured a little too far into the absurd - a particular incidence when the three performers were pelting each other with flour springs to mind. There were moments when it appeared as if the production would do something interesting with the lighting, I hoped they would make use of shadows, but this was an area which I felt was not sufficiently explored. I did appreciate the musical accompaniment, little bits of Schubert were gently sprinkled throughout to great effect.

I am inclined to think that 'The Crossing Place' is an attempt at a slightly pretentious piece of theatre. Perhaps it is my lack of prior knowledge of the poet which restricted my appreciation of the show but I think that the show should be capable of standing alone regardless. The performance was well executed but perhaps the concept itself was flawed as different aspects of the performance seemed to be largely incongruent.

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Emily Lawford

at 18:54 on 20th Aug 2017

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‘The Crossing Place’ opens with a pile of rubbish bags in a heap on the middle of the otherwise bare stage floor, dimly lit with green and blue lighting. Three strangers emerge almost naked from the bags. They glance at each other, uncertain, and slowly dress themselves in suits and ties, before beginning a performance of physical theatre, dance, and spoken word poetry that explores isolation and connection in a changing and bewildering world.

This piece, from the Swedish/English company Romantika and directed by Johan Bark, is the first ever English-speaking production based on the poetry of Tomas Tranströmer, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 2011. The three cast members speak excerpts of the poetry sometimes in unison, and sometimes apart, while engaging in a frenzied routine of constant movement. Sometimes they are embracing, sometimes fighting in visceral, violent motion. They tear up sheets of paper in seeming anguish, and pour a flour-like substance on each other and sprinkle it in the air.

The physical theatre is often captivating and Tranströmer’s words are eloquent and searching. The issue with this production is that the two do not seem to connect. There does not seem to be an overarching narrative explaining the three characters – and Tranströmer’s poetry, while beautiful, is only fragmented, and leaves the audience wishing for more substantial meaning or a recognisable story behind a pervading sense of loneliness and fear. The words speak sometimes of cities and sometimes forests, and characters are named and brief stories are told, but the unfortunately seeming randomness of the action leaves us feeling a little lost. The cast (Chris Mawson, Michael Blundell-Lithco and Ciaran John) are all energetic and talented men who can contort themselves with vigour and emotion throughout the hour-long piece – but the emotion without explanation cannot help but feel a little wasted. The spectacle and the words were certainly impressive, but I found myself losing my concentration as the play continued without a sense of real meaning.

The production made me wish to read more of Tranströmer’s writing, but I do not feel that it suits a theatrical performance. Perhaps longer extracts or more clear stories would provoke the audience to a greater reaction. This production, devised in Estonia by the ensemble, contains a lot of talent, energy and ambition, but unfortunately the lack of storytelling leaves us underwhelmed.

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