by Leyla Nazli.
Arcola Theatre 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL To 16 February 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 5min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 January.
Distinctive performance as myth meets ‘reality’.
Just as we’re putting Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and others away with the Christmas lights, along comes Arcola Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen with a play by Executive Producer Leyla Nazli reminding that folk stories exist elsewhere than Western Europe, founded in myths which gave local habitations and names to powerful, often distressing human experience. Through such names, as later by Freudian probings, terror could be understood and controlled.
Nowhere is a woman more the focus of attention than when she’s given birth. Yet she’s in a passive position; lying down, physically weakened, feelings excited but easily turning to anxiety. For the first time, maybe, she inhabits part of a world separate from her partner. It creates vulnerability, even in the antiseptic world of an east London hospital’s crisp white efficiency, when the dirty, disordered blackness of the Elka bursts inexplicably in from the dark world of Turkish myth to the drowsily vulnerable mind.
Kathryn Hunter rushes authoritatively onstage, jumping on new mother Selma’s bed, jerking it around, threatening the baby in its nearby room. The Elka is a nightmare figure whose horse-riding appropriates male activity and force, just as she steals her mounts from male riders. Hunter’s dark-clad figure, with a mane of unruly hair, clambers over Selma’s bed, verbally parrying every argument, invisible to nurse and husband: in her nightmare the new mother is alone amid the complacency of surrounding reality.
The middle-class English tones of the others find an exotic contrast in Hunter’s accent, which is easily recognised as East European (probably). While her words carry menace and torment, Hunter cradles curses and threats in a soft, even honeyed voice, alternating this with jagged, flint-like wit or riposte. With her sharp movement and swift appearance or melting into the surrounds, or her imagined horse-ride, it creates a sense of a partially-sensed, dark world of the mind.
Anna Francolini shades Selma’s fear and anxiety through anger, fear and attempts to reason or form a connection with Elka. She has more to work on than the husband or flirtatious nurse. For the focus is firmly on the horsewoman who comes riding.
.Mark: Matthew Flynn.
Selma: Anna Francolini.
Elka: Kathryn Hunter.
Claire: Hara Yannas.
Director: Mehmet Ergen.
Designer: Matthew Wright.
Lighting: Richard Williamson.
Sound/Music: Neil McKeown.
Video: Ben Walden, Dick Straker for MESMER.
Movement: Nathan M Wright.
Assistant director: Natalie Katsou.