by Dan O’Brien based on the book Where War Lives by Paul Watson..

Royal & Derngate (Underground) Guildhall Road NN1 1DP To 8 March 2014.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 2.45pm (performances sold out.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 March .

Opening up the lower depths.
This was reviewed by Carole Woddis when it opened in London. By the Northampton dates, certainly, James Dacre’s production matched perfectly the urgent pace of lives run along the edge of excitement. In other respects I go with Carole’s judgments.

Whether it be the angry conflicts of the Middle East cradle of explosions, or the sheer white challenge of living in the Arctic Circle, the tube-like compartment where two rows of audience sit either side of the landing-strip of action gives a sense of confinement balanced by the flashing kaleidoscope of colour images and film either end of the mini-auditorium.

With two alert, energetic performances on a white-strewn floor that might be sand or snow, there’s journalistic urgency and a racing pace reflecting the speed of a war photographer’s thinking. Contrasting that is the constant haunting left by an American serviceman’s dead face on the newsman who photographed him close-up.

Speed and fragmentation doubtless worked at the Gate, a well-established theatre above a Notting Hill pub, inhabited by Fringe-going regulars. But what about a town where theatre primarily means a Victorian proscenium-arch auditorium and a large adaptable hall in which singers sing, comedians joke and wrestlers get sweaty?

Positive London reviews doubtless helped, but Dacre’s success in opening up one of the ‘Underground’ spaces tucked at the lower level around the Royal’s foyer area at the last major rebuild, is clear in the sold-out performances.

No, there aren’t many seats to sell, compared with the Royal, let alone the Derngate. But if something new and unfamiliar doesn’t take-off, even this small scale can result in empty spaces between the diehards and student groups.

Not here though. An all-age audience watched attentively, many staying for a post-show discussion, showing keen interest both in the material itself and the process of creating the piece of theatre. It’s a hopeful new direction for the Northamptonshire enterprise, and with one distinguished collaborator – the Gate – being matched by another, Islington’s Little Angel Theatre, for Moominsummer Madness in late May, the pace has stepped up once again in this formerly quiet corner of the theatrical scene.

Dan O’Brien: Damien Molony.
Paul Watson: William Gaminara.

Director: James Dacre.
Designer: Alex Lowde.
Lighting: Charles Balfour.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.
Video: Dick Straker for Mesmer.
Dialect coach: Martin McKellen.
Assistant lighting: Oscar Wyatt.

2014-03-07 14:29:23

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