ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY: Robert Burton / Stan’s Café / James Yarker
Stan’s Café: Warwick Arts Centre, 12 – 15 March 2013
Runs: 3h, one interval.

Review: WAC, 12 03 13, Alexander Ray Edser.

Brave, intriguing, flawed.
Stan’s Café has never fought shy of a challenge – neither in form nor content. And to adapt Robert Burton’s 17th Century treatise ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY for the performance space is an enormous challenge indeed. Stan’s Café has risen to the challenge, but, on this showing, the challenge has got the better of them. This is not to say there’s nothing good in the performance – there is much that is good – but the performance as a whole feels like a work very much in progress.

Burton’s book is a magnificent work. It stands as a monument for enquiring minds, for a passionate desire to attempt to explain with all the knowledge available at the time. And to explain what? – What we might now call depression . . . How times don’t change. Talking of people with depression I cannot lose the expression: ‘They are all of glass.’ Nor do I wish to lose it – why would I?

The overall presentation of the production is strong – in particular the many categorising flip charts and Kay Wilton’s witty costume designs.

The production falters partly because there is an apparent lack of all-encompassing vision for the piece and partly because it is under-prepared. The conceit for the play is that the company deliver a lecture – in a lecture it’s crucial to engage with the audience; the company hasn’t yet absorbed their texts enough to engage us – we are talked at and therefore pushed constantly away. Scripts in hand are both irritating and a distraction.

I particularly liked Gerard Bell’s performance as the Burton character – wonderfully self-effacing which gives rise to a continuous vein of gentle human humour.

What Stan’s Café needs to complete their progress is time – for editing, focusing and preparing. But in these financially philistine days can such a company afford this, not luxury, but necessity?

Performed by: Gerard Bell, Rochi Rampal, Graeme Fose, Craig Stephens

Edited and Devised by: the cast with direction from James Yarker
Set and Props: Harry Trow
Costumes: Kay Wilton
Lighting: Nigel Edwards
Music: Graeme Rose

2013-03-14 17:54:08

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