devised by Nicholas Rawling, Imogen Charleston, Caroline Williams, Irena Stratieva, Christopher Reed, Ed Dowie, Quinta, Matthew Brown.

bac (Battersea Arts Centre) Lavender Hill SW11 5TN To 9 March 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7223 2223.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 February.

Odyssey on the borderline of theatre and cinema.

As individual as Ulysses’ 10-year voyage home (subject of Homer’s Odyssey), and for its makers as laboursome and adventurously risk-prone, this is a piece where the visual impact will probably dominate for most viewers. Yet that’s created by two performers, while there are three musicians on stage, showing music’s importance for mood-setting and a sense of continuity in film.

Not that this is, quite, a film. The projected images here rely on pre-computer means, involving innumerable hours of experiment and shaping to create cardboard ‘puppets’ depicting people or places. Hand-held originals, often of incredible detail, are projected on a screen to create a whole formed of fore- and backgrounds.

Mostly it conforms to ideas of ancient Greece, though Ulysses’ son Telemachus tears-off after his father on motor-bike and train. The anachronism represents a playfulness apparent throughout, while the show’s depth comes from a simultaneous dual, divided awareness. On the screen the finished image. Visible in a corner of the stage, Nicholas Rawling and Imogen Charleston working hard with piles of flat-drawn images showing people and places. It works like magic, where the magician shows the trick’s workings but leaves a sense of mystery. How do those little bits of cardboard on sticks waving around become a complex image, such as a man moving through a palace?

Music, sometimes mixed with sound-effects, binds and increases the depth by expressing emotion, while visual detail – a train’s flickering lights, the sense of a motor-bike we can see is almost still on stage seeming to speed along a road – is admirable.

There is use of film techniques like pans and zooms. And styles; the opening home-life introduction ends with sight of the Greek flotilla, bringing the credit-title sequence. Already-seen words warning about eating the sun-god’s sheep reappear, in stark Expressionist manner, as the sailors tuck into the illicit mutton, while black-and-white explodes into colour for the homecoming. Not that there’s anything cosy about this version or its world of gnarled experience and fierce determination.

Cinema without film, theatrically staged, it’s maybe something of an oddity. But I’d prefer to say a valuable rarity.

Puppeteers: Nicholas Rawlings, Imogen Charleston
Musicians: Hazel Mills, Quinta, Christopher Reed,

Director: Nicholas Rawling.
Designers: Michael Vale, Imogen Charleston.
Sound: Jo Walker.
Composers: Christopher Reid, Ed Dowie, Quinta, Matthew Brown.
Musical Director: Christopher Reed.

2013-02-20 11:54:41

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