THE TALE OF IVAN VS IVAN
adapted from Nikolai Gogol by Aleksandar Lukac and the company.
Finborough Theatre above the Finborough Wine Bar 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 25 October 2010.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 October.
Stylised performance still needs to connect with dramatic truth.
At six o’clock the Canadians trundle their set up the Finborough’s stairs. Half an hour later some are still confused by the profusion of doors. It’s understandable, and their itinerant nonchalance is admirable, especially as between late weekend slots in Earl’s Court they will be sweeping off to give these neighbouring Ivans airings around eastern Europe.
It’s only a shame the show they begin at 7.30pm can’t arouse such a positive response. Adapted from Gogol, it has what could be a suitably grotesque nature, presented by a white-face troupe ingratiating themselves emphatically with the audience. A couple do this rather skilfully, with some neat detail; others are more forceful than convincing.
And eighty minutes of emphatic ingratiation, varied only by some inexplicable diversions, makes for an act of endurance. There seems a yearning towards America with a scene briefly replayed with a southern USA accent (for clarity, it’s claimed) and a final singalong ‘Che sera’.
These Ivans live peacefully as neighbours until one upsets the other. They become enemies, till the village reconciles them through a banquet. Or thinks it does, for one villager ill-advisedly asks the cause of the quarrel. That restarts the feud as an almighty row, magnified beyond reality by Gogol. As the banquet table swirls away, Talk is Free Theatre attempt to catch his exaggeration. But everything – make-up, facial expression, movement, voice – has been so exaggerated for so long, there’s nowhere for Aleksandar Lukac’s production to go.
Maybe this is one occasion when the Finborough is too small, where more distance is needed for the stylised exaggeration. But much of the vocal work and several pieces of over-emphatic physical acting suggests that’s not the main problem.
There’s too often a knowing manner, unluckily combined with an increasing sense that this company don’t know their limitations. Like Kafka, Gogol is a prose writer easily traduced into over-theatricality. But whereas, say, Steven Berkoff’s Kafka uses the opposite of the novelist’s cool style to capture the alarm constrained by surface calm, this Gogol comes over merely as a theatre company thinking they’re being more clever than is the case.
Narrator: David Dodsley.
Ivan Nikiforovych: Colin Doyle.
Golopuz: Parris Greaves.
Ivan Ivanovich: Milosh Rodic.
Agafya: Jennifer Stewart.
Gapka: Alicia Toner.
Director: Aleksandar Lukac.
Designers/Costume: Carleigh Aikins, Katherine Salnek.
Lighting: Gareth Crew.