The Night Dances
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse,
21 New Globe Walk,
London SE1 9DT
1hr 40mins incl nterval
TICKETS 020 7401 9919 or 0871 297 0749 (booking fee applies)
In person: Mon-Sat 10am – 6pm (8pm on perf days);
Sundays: 10am-5pm (7pm on perf days)
Review by Carole Woddis of performance seen Dec 15, 2014:
Fleeting pleasures in an otherwise gloomy landscape
Some things look better on paper than they turn out to be in reality.
This winter’s Candlelight Concerts, Winter’s Tales in the Globe’s small Sam Wanamaker Jacobean theatre seem to offer a cornucopia of goodies. Penny Wilton reading Chekhov, Roger Allam D H Lawrence, Harriet Walter Daphne du Maurier and much else besides.
For fans of Charlotte Rampling, the prospect of seeing her reading Sylvia Plath poems with accompanying Benjamin Britten cello suites seemed utterly enticing. In the event, it proved more of an endurance test. And not just for us audience members. For 40 minutes Rampling, tall, statuesque dressed only in black, like a dancer in repose, held us almost enthralled – her stillness complemented against Sonia Wieder-Atherton’s livid, passionate cellist.
At the best of times, Plath’s poems are not easy to decipher, never mind one imagines to learn. For 40 minutes the dirge and grimness of Plath’s death-obsessed poems were strangely echoed in the jump and drone of Britten, given extraordinary life in Wieder-Atherton’s hands.
Up close and personal, the atmosphere was intense, solemn, attentive. A performed ritual, part choreographed, part `staged’, then Rampling began to stumble . Words stuck in her throat and after the interval, even with a book in her hand – the poems now of Ted Hughes – they refused to flow freely. At one point, she stopped completely, smiled, looked across to her companion who smiled back as if to say, `and now?’ Eventually Rampling found her place but all pretence at `staging’ now gone. Two more poems read including The Blue Flannel Suit, Hughes’ painful recollection of Plath at her graveside. Then it was over.
Neither seemed quite sure what to do next. But the audience roared and Rampling, looking relieved, returned their generosity.
How much the evening illuminated the poems of Plath is a moot point. Wieder-Atherton, a phenomenal musician and Rampling, eyes often closed in meditation, appeared as conduits for their respective muses, at once compelling and revealing Britten as by turns atonal, skittish and demanding.
As a whole, though, the evening became shapeless and lacking variation or variety of tone, ultimately and sadly one of only fleeting pleasures.
The Night Dances:
Voice: Charlotte Rampling
Cello: Sonia Wieder-Atherton
Director: Sonia Wieder-Atherton
Design: Sonia Wieder-Atherton and Charlotte Rampling
Design Assistant: Emmanuelle Touati
Lighting Design: Franck Thévenon
Presented by Les Visiteurs Du Soir
The Night Dances was performed in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare Globe, Southwark, London on Dec 15, 2014 as part of the winter season Concerts by Candlelight