11 February, 2009

Theater Review: News From Nowhere/Tim Crouch - England

Theater Review:
News From Nowhere/Tim Crouch England

Vital Link: youtube clip on England

This is likely the most eye-catching theater program in this year's Arts Festival. News From Nowhere is Tim Crouch's Theater Company in the UK that has garnered rave reviews from everywhere they go. England, performed by Tim Crouch and Hannah Ringham, is one of three programs at the Arts Festival.

England is performed in a gallery, Tang Contemporary Art (based in Beijing) in Sheung Wan. I caught the opening performance. The show contains extensive musing on the nature of art, and has a site-specific element. For this performance, it is interaction with the "site-specific architectural installation exhibition by award winning architect William Lim, whose works deal with the uncertainties of life and how the environment can hold a psychological power over us" (Time Out).

Unusually, partly due to its low ceiling, the gallery feels rather cramped, even before the 60 ticket holders showed up. That did not stop me from admiring the installation by Lim. Most impressive were 2 large wooden boxes with doors. After taking off your shoes, you can walk inside, which is completely lined by mirrors. You can watch an infinity number of yourself and wonder about life and death. This is definitely not an orginal idea, but execution of the show in general is clean and strong, the message clear and not pretentious (as installations are prone to be). I urge you to visit this exhibition even if you are not attending the performances. Too bad I cannot find pics on the net.

Pic: Tim Crouch (photograph © Lisa barnard)

What is England about? It is a metaphor for many things. The plot ostensibly revolves around two people; one a terminally ill person of unspecified sex who is in need of a heart transplant, and the other the art-loving and rich boyfriend. We hear their thoughts in the first part, on themes that range from beauty to death. For this part, the audience stand in the gallery and the two performers occasionally move from spot to spot. After all walking through one of Lim's tunnel-like boxes, the audience is seated for the second half, when the action shifts to a Muslim country where the person who had recovered after heart transplant went to thank the mother of the donor. Unfortunately things are not what he has been led to believe, and how the heart came about suddenly becomes shrouded in deceit and moral bankruptcy.

The "dialogue" between the two actors has an improvised feeling. The way they were delivered, I could have listened all night. Crouch speaks in a fastidious fashion, often lengthening syllables for emphasis; Ringham is more colloquial. Diction is very clear and one is often mesmerized by the cadence as there is a strong rhythmic element to the way they weave in and out of each other. For me, sometimes the counterpoint and even fugues are unmistakably musical in nature and a treat for the ears. I really cannot describe it, but fortunately you can catch a bit of it (and the other pieces) on youtube.

Note that they are performing also in the larger CCCH Studio Theater. I think they are sold-out.

Kudos to both the performance as well as installation.

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