by Rachel Chavkin, Libby King, Jake Margolin, Kristen Sieh with Matt Hubbs, Nick Vaughan, Andrew Schneider.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 14 November 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.40pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 14 Nov 2.30pm.
Captioned 11 Nov.
Runs 1`hr 40min No interval.
TICKETS; 020 7565 5000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 October.
Rough, wide-angled ride through the land of the allegedly free.
With just about everyone involved listed as a co-creator, this is indubitably a TEAM effort. And the TEAM, based in Brooklyn and devising theatre for over a decade, descend on London with what is, by the side of some of their work, a quiet, small-scale piece contrasting two all-American types: outdoor macho US President Theodore Roosevelt and pop-start hunk Elvis Presley.
At the title’s centre there’s that ‘v’. The sense of a contest comes at the start as the two stake the territories the circumstances of their lives gave their personalities. It’s clearly a fake; 16 years separated Roosevelt’s death from Presley’s birth.
But there is a genuine, none-too-happy meeting going on between Ann and Brenda (A and B), two anonymous modern Americans living under the myths of the great (Mount Rushmore also intervenes), shaped in part by their mythology. Their weekend together doesn’t work out, but leads to Ann’s road-trip to Presley’s Graceland.
Brenda and Ann are appealingly genuine people, but both American heroes they identify with were public constructs. Roosevelt liked being photographed as a soldier and big-game hunter (as President he also had a liberal approach to diversity), but his strenuous activity grew from fighting childhood asthma. The famously careful construction of Presley’s persona matches Roosevelt. Both figures offer Ann a choice, but on their terms.
The women’s identification with these figures is related through movie motifs – the great American myth-machine. They adopt prominently awful wig and moustache respectively and stereotypical clothing for action often played on spaces suggesting studio sets, with film inserts, before mixing with a modern film myth incorporating the climax of Ridley Scott’s 1991 film Thelma and Louise.
Yet Libby King’s Ann has a concern and persistence, Kristen Sieh’s Brenda balletic freedom, making the ordinary women more alive than the extraordinary famous.
Wildly inventive though the highly-charged production is, characteristically from the TEAM, there are times its proliferations seem a noisy way of displaying ideas these actors and good dialogue could make with more point and less show. But it never has been their way, and I don’t suppose it ever will.
Ann/Elvis Presley: Libby King.
Theodore Roosevelt/Brenda: Kristen Sieh.
Director: Rachel Chavkin.
Designer: Nicholas Vaughan.
Lighting: Austin Smith, Joe Cantalupo.
Sound: Matt Hubbs.
Photography diector/film editor: Andrew Schneider.
Video: Joe Cantalupo, Andrew Schneider.
Costume: Kristen Sieh.
Associate director: Jake Margolin.
Assistant director: Kevin Hourigan.