THREE GOOD WIVES
Little Angel Theatre 14 Dagmar Passage N1 1DN To 28 March 2010.
Tue-Thu; Sat 8pm Fri 7pm Sun 4pm.
Runs 55min No interval.
TCKETS: 020 7226 1787.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 March.
Fragments from present and past, worlds old and new.
Inkfish theatre company have come from their USA base with this piece, which can be static, gnomic and relies on a lot of background knowledge to support the upfront foreground content. That foreground is very clear, as three wives await husbands’ return from war in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Behind part of the action a tape plays advice to waiting wives – think of the absence as only three months to get myself looking like Britney Spears for his return. Then there’s TV footage of the bombing of Baghdad plus a victory speech by President Bush (reminding how his entertainment value was in inverse proportion to his political). All this plays against – at times directly against – the quiet stage action.
Less obvious is the way Inkfish employ various deep-rooted mythologies: The Odyssey, Ramayana and The Arabian Nights, each rooted in or around the areas of modern conflict.
Puppetry is vital but doesn’t predominate, and there’s a keenness to employ different strands of puppet performance – silhouette figures, and both small and large figures – the latter a red-dressed woman whose face, live and onscreen, plus movement contain much of the piece’s emotional content.
It’s all beautifully done, with precision and delicacy. And no-one would want to lose the concentration this piece imposes on its audience (this is definitely puppetry for adults). But, given the richness of the traditions it calls upon, and the multiple performance means it employs, Three Good Wives limits its dramatic impact through sections that seem almost hermetically sealed from conveying much to the audience.
And there is a limited use of puppetry, something perhaps emphasised when performed in a theatre where puppets in all their glorious forms are the raison d’être.
That’s not to say they should be constantly in use; it’s more a thought rising from a sense that everything here’s being tried once without much selection as to how it could form part of a larger whole to communicate an overall experience to spectators.
The words “work in progress” often describe this situation, but they’re not evident here. For once, less is more and more might be better.
Performers: Anna-Maria Nabirye, Elisa Gallo Rosso, Marianna Vogt.
Director: Alissa Mello.
Designer/Video/Puppetys: Michael Kelly.