by Jennie Buckman.
Arcola Theatre 27 Arcola Street E8 2DJ To 12 June 2010.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat 5, 12 June 3pm.
BSL Signed 5 June 3pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 May.
Back in the box, Pandora. These stories can live without you.
You’d think someone who’d spent years training actors at RADA would have been able to ensure she had decent ones for her own play. And sure enough Jennie Buckman, with director Alex Clifton, has assembled a company perfectly fitted to each role in her script for Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, a company committed to marrying ancient classics with modern communities.
So here, the lives of nine mature Haringey women have produced stories incorporated with the Greek myth of Pandora. The first person to heed the cry “open the box”, Pandora thereby set free a clutch of curses, including fear, grief and misery, despair, disease, old age and death, to infect the world.
Among them, somehow, was Hope, the one thing Pandora managed to retain. Go back into the Greek myth and Pandora, like Pygmalion’s Galathea, was a clay creation, deployed by the god Zeus to revenge himself on men, and especially Prometheus who had spoiled Zeus’ earlier revenge on mankind. If people should avoid Greeks bearing gifts, they should really avoid any suggestion of benevolence from a Greek divinity.
Pandora’s box was apparently a jar. Boxes and jars recur in Buckman’s weaving of five Haringey stories, representing several of the Pandora curses. They hang well together, even if a couple remain isolated for some time. A jar contains a dead husband’s ashes; later the husband gives his story, a masterpiece of narration from an otherwise underused Jonathan Livingstone. An early police interview after an accident hangs fire till considerably later, when its context becomes apparent.
Meanwhile, Brian Lonsdale pairs a son devoted to his fear-ridden mother and a compulsively bullying father, whose deaf daughter’s fears and humiliations are made keenly apparent by Sophie Stone. Fine work too from Kay Bridgeman and, especially, Brigid Zengeni as the paranoid mother and as Pandora.
If only it stayed that simple. But technology intrudes. The video inserts from the Haringey women are understandable, but some occasional messing around with electrical contacts is not. And ironically, the stories are strong enough to mean Pandora could really be written out of her own concept.
Jamie/Simone/Athena/Auntie: Kay Bridgeman.
PC?Lazarus/Bobby: Jonathan Livingstone.
Craig/Vince/Kevin/Alvin: Brian Lonsdale.
Cleo/WPC/Amy/Estella: Sophie Stone.
Pandora: Brigid Zengeni.
Director: Alex Clifton.
Designer/Costume: Paul Burgess.
Lighting: Mark Howland.
Sound: Dominic Bilkey.
Video: Michael Buckman.
Assistant director: Tanya Roberts.