FORESTS based on texts by William Shakespeare
Birmingham Rep (at the Old Rep) till 15 September
Runs: 1h 40m, no interval
Review: Alexander Ray, 04 09 12
Extraordinary, extraordinarily powerful.
FORESTS is a vast theatrical poem. Calixto Bieito has woven together extracts from Shakespeare texts – taken, not only from the ‘forest plays’ but also from Timon, Lear, Henrys and others – into a sweeping movement that explores what it means to be human and alive. His creation uses words, music, powerful visual images and other technologies; we have to give ourselves up to the work in order for it to work for us.
There is a broad narrative shape. A group of people enter into a forest; at first it is a magical place of of childlike liberation; sex and sexuality are a natural part of life in the forest as is laughter (much focused on to begin with) and eventually, tears, too. But the atmosphere grows darker and darker, relationships fall apart, the set is broken apart, relationships are shattered. We move inexorably towards death and oblivion . . . ‘Here lie I who alive, all living men did hate.’
It feels as if the poem could end here, but it doesn’t. Bieito and his team bring us from the low point by incorporating it into a bigger message. We must celebrate life, while living, because we shall, as sure as eggs is eggs, end as dust.
Bieito mixes English and Spanish in this heightened performance style, at times moving towards the operatic. One or two moments of chasing and whooping could be more focused, more specific, but his performing team is able to draw us into their world.
High octane performing from the whole team, and song and music add important levels of meaning. All this within a sparse and starkly beautiful setting by Rebecca Ringst.
Highly unusual, highly emotional, not to everyone’s taste, but a unique experience. The RSC’s sponsored World Shakespeare Festival is bringing us some fine new work.
Joseph Maria Pou
Director: Calixto Bieito
Dramaturgy: Marc Rosich & Calixto Bieito
Set Design: Rebecca Ringst
Costume Design: Ingo Krugler
Lighting Design: Tim Mitchell
Sound Design: Dan Hoole
Composer: Maika Makovski
Casting: Hannah Miller, Helena Palmer