LORCA IS DEAD or A Brief History of Surrealism
by Dominic J Allen.
Southwark Playhouse Shipwright’s Yard corner of Tooley Street and Bermondsey SE1 2TF To 27 November 2010.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval;.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 November.
Surrealists at home together in spirited piece of far-from-automatic writing.
There’s an appeal, one might feel, that’s surreal from the moment Belt Up’s actors approach people in the Southwark Playhouse bar and invite them to take part in Lorca is Dead. That was in 1936 (of course, he stayed dead subsequently, though no-one found anything in his grave) Not even when they dug it up.
Later, when things move into the auditorium that’s got up as André Breton’s home, got up as a theatre, got up as Breton’s home, with Antonin Artaud playing the time-machine and Salvador Dali taking over everything (including Paul Eluard’s woman, as Gala starts out, as well as from the egg), and Lorca, dead Lorca, played by a feather boa, (orange, of course) and anyone – actor, audience – in it at any time, surrealism becomes a game to be played, a life to be lived.
Is it facetious; do the Manifestoes (Breton’s work, not knowingly quoted here), the rejection of the bourgeois, of reason, give life a new dimension or merely flatten things into one-dimensional flippancy? Surrealism’s colourful, it’s stimulating, but it’s not what keeps the lights on, and when sorrow strikes it easily becomes futile denial, while there’s a suspicion that any group, however free from constraints, finds its own hierarchy of misery, according to its dominant temperaments.
Even formally-dressed host Breton eventually faces revolt, while Bunuel (risk it, the finest artist of the lot) barely registers. Artaud’s sidelined, Eluard sulks, Aragon is fiercely military – he’s the leftist extreme of the group, while Dali veers towards fascism and the attraction of the huge temperament.
Performances are unequal technically, and as Belt Up keep themselves to themselves name-wise, it can only be said that Breton and Dali, with Gala, seem most striking. If I’ve forgotten Magritte, everyone else does too; while a production that makes him the only cross-gender casting, diminutive in black suit, plus a script that reminds us he’s Belgian, hardly seem keen to blow his tuba.
Individually, there are weaknesses. But all together, with the bustle, wit and company commitment, it’s a happy show with some of the most comfortable seating in theatre, ever.
cast and credits not available.