conceived and devised by Forced Entertainment based on the book by Ágota Kristóf.
Tour to 1 November 2014.
Runs 2hr 10min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 June at Battersea Arts Centre.
High impact of highly-compacted drama.
So resourcefully playful are Forced Entertainment, so eclectic and wide-ranging in style, I wondered at first if The Notebook’s author was a real or fictional Hungarian version of Agatha Christie. But no; Ágota Kristóf moved to Switzerland where she wrote in French, including Le Grand Cahier in 1986.
Tim Etchells’ brigade have picked it up and played it straight. Two company regulars comprise the entire cast, entering together, apparently bemused, presenting with a childlike mix of hesitation and naivety the joint diary that provides the title and recounts their story.
It fits well in Battersea Arts Centre’s Great War component of this year’s London International Festival of Theatre, and reminds how powerful a production concept can be, if true to the material being performed and worked-out consistently.
These two, with their notebook, make a pair of terrible twins. Or that’s how they’d be reported if their actions became widely known. They are the product of two wars; the Second World War which disrupted Europe, and the cold estrangement within their family, which sees them dumped by their fleeing mother with a grandmother who insists they earn their keep, before the arrival of a father they do not know and who does not care about them.
Dressed in matching cheap suits and shirts, with identical-looking specs, they might be twins, except for the contrast between Robin Arthur’s landscape face and Richard Lowdon’s portrait-shaped features.
Mostly the reading (as it seems, though after LIFT brought London Gatz in 2012 it’s hard to be sure) alternates, but the pauses between chapters and the sense of silent understanding as they jointly announce a new chapter heading give a sense of complicity, of knowing more than their notebook’s revealed.
Survival tactics move into a covert violence that begins instinctively in response to their hostile environment, though as time and chapters go by there’s a growing sense of understanding and purpose to their stratagems.
The whole is a sustained, involving, two hours that passes smoothly thanks to Etchells and his actors, with their tonal discipline and integrity in characterisation of young minds in a perverse world.
Cast: Robin Arthur, Richard Lowdon.
Director: Tim Etchells.
Designer: Richard Lowdon.
Lighting: Jim Harrison.
19-20 July The Little House in the Faraway Forest Latitude Festival Southwold
10-11 Oct 7.45pm Crucible Studio Sheffield 0114 249 6000 www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk
1 Nov Live at LICA Lancaster 01524 594141 www.liveatlica.org