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Posts Tagged ‘Louris Van Der Geer’

Baby Doll (Leone Darling) telling off her daughter (Steph Calthorpe)

Baby Doll (Leone White) tells off her daughter Diddums (Steph Calthorpe). (Photo by Louris van der Geer)

I was rather excited to see Honey-Bun and Baby Doll because Louris’  last show is one of my two favourite plays ever. I didn’t like this anywhere near as much, but it was still a great piece of theatre, and I’m still in awe of her skill. As I was watching the line kept running through my head- “Louris is Beckett, Louris is Beckett”. The similarity was striking. They shared, to point out one similarity, the comedy that is also deeper and unsettling. In Beckett’s work people often miss the comedy because his plays are considered so ‘meaningful’ and have such a place in the theatrical canon, but in Honey-Bun and Baby Doll the situation was reversed. People missed the more serious or unsettling elements because it was just a little piece by an amateur in a youth theatre festival.  The overall…style I suppose is also the same. The play as a situation which represents something wider, but also exists in it’s own right. Beckett created images, situations, events, which are not of our world or life, but neither are they above it, blatantly ‘poetic’ and ringing with the echoes of ossified historic grandeur. The woman stuck in a mound, talking away with a smile on her face. Honey-Bun and Baby Doll had the girl picking through a pile of electronics, pulling them apart, while her parents canoodle in the background.  Both creations are intensely theatrical. But what does that really mean? They have a direct presence in the theatre, are of the theatre, and the form cannot be separated from the content. Where Louris, or should I say Ms. van der Geer, and Beckett differ is in the degree of their removal from literal reality. Louris’ piece is much closer to life, in an external sense, than Beckett’s work is.  Louris had a house, a couch, a couple, whereas Beckett’s more ‘parents in dustbins’. One is something we would come across, in a literal sense,  in our everyday lives. The other is not. This is not to say that Beckett’s work is less relevant, or less connected with reality, in fact it could easily mean the opposite. Something does not need to be represented in a literal way to be close to reality. This same difference is present in the dialogue and the structure: Louris’ relied a lot more on the image we all have of reality. Beckett’s plays break free of any ties to naturalism or ‘realism’ and live solely in the theatrical space, unfettered. So perhaps we could say Honey-Bun and Baby Doll had the spirit of Beckett clothed in the garb of naturalism. With all this though, the difference is a matter of degree rather than opposing natures. The dials do not have to turn very far to get from Honey-Bun and Baby Doll to Happy Days. Those names themselves share something, a kind of gentle irony. Both plays and both names pick a little fragment out of life and hold it up to the light. It may look stange to us ripped from its surroundings and viewed from a different angle, in such bright light, but in the the end the light shining through it does not distort it, but illuminates it in a way we’ve never seen before.

The actors all rose to their task perfectly, there was never a sense that the script was good but the actors were letting it down. The two blended completely, making the play a single living object. It was always very much a play, it never drifted into seeming like a real interaction happening spontaneously, but it didn’t need to. Interestingly enough, it’s artificial nature didn’t make it seem dead or like things were happening simply because the script said they should. Spontenaity and artifice gelled perfectly. It was interesting seeing Leone Darling, who played Baby Doll, in another Hatched production. Her performance was nowhere near the quality it reached in Honey-Bun and Baby Doll, where her self and the role seemed to blend. In the other production, Welcome to the Show, she was merely going through the motions. I would put this down to the directors. It’s not merely a matter of a director ‘drawing out’ a great performance from an actor either, One of a theatre director’s main roles, whether conscious or not, is creating a certain atmosphere in rehearsals. If the atmosphere is right an actor is free to give a great performace. It’s more a matter of the director not stuffing the actor up, which is a much harder task than trying to make the actor better by some sort of addition.

I didn’t enjoy Honey-Bun and Baby Doll as much as I enjoyed Louris’ Hatched show last year, They’re All in Their Little Boxes. A few people I spoke to said the same thing, including Louris herself. I was trying to work out why and I think one reason is that Honey-Bun and Baby Doll was a lot more static. One of the basic parts of playwrighting is creating a routine and then breaking it. Macbeth is having a feast, then that routine is broken by the appearance of Baquo’s ghost. In They’re All in their Little Boxes, routines were being broken constantly, left, right and center. There was never a moment for you, as an audience member, to become complacent. Boredom was out of the question. I described it to Louris as a fast paced tennis match between me and the play. We were both being pushed to the limit of our abilities, and throwing out amazing shots, each of which our opponent had to use all their skill to return, but still their return shot was a terrific shot as well. Honey-Bun and Baby Dollwas more homogenous. On a smaller scale routines were created and broken perhaps just as fast, but they were all encompassed in one slow-moving river. The shots were still expertly executed, but followed a particular well-defined gameplan. If anything Honey-Bun and Baby Dollwas a much tamer play. It bowed further to the gods of the well-made play, though the one doing the bowing was still a genius. I personally would say fuck the gods, let your soul live unfettered by duty. After all, if we can’t do that in the theatre, where can we?

Unfortunately Hatched has already closed, as has Liminal Theatre’s Oedipus, which I saw yesterday (I’ll post the review tomorrow). I went to the closing nights of both. That’s a habit I should get out of if I’m going to write this blog and expect people to read it. “Oh yeah this show was great, the most life changing experience I’ve ever had. But you can’t go. It’s closed. Done. Yeah. Yeah I know I just posted this. I posted it after  it closed. Yeah. I know. Too bad. Sorry.”

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Honey-Bun and Baby Doll. Written, directed & designed by Louris van der Geer. Honey-Bun– David Peake; Baby Doll– Leone White; Diddums– Steph Calthorpe. Part of Hatched ’09, St. Martins Youth Arts Centre. Closed.

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Setting Off

Until this year I didn’t see plays. People who know me find that strange, cos I’ve always had an interest in theatre, and done my share of drama classes and school plays. I think part of the reason is that it’s very rare for me to see a play I like: to date I have seen only two plays that I have been taken by (Affection by Ranters Theatre and They’re All in Their Little Boxes by Louris Van Der Geer, a friend of mine whose second play I review below)). Of course, it works the other way as well; obviously you won’t see many plays you like if you don’t see many plays full-stop.  This year I’ve started seeing plays, or theatrical experiments, or whatever they’re calling them these days.  I’ve also started reading a lot about the theatre, and thinking a lot about the theatre. I began working on a play of my own this year, and that prompted the increase in all things theatrical. On Saturday night I went to Hatched, a mini-festival at St. Martins Youth Arts Centre. One show I saw in Hatched was Honey-Bun and Baby Doll. I was  giving  my thoughts on the show to Louris Van Der Geer, the writer and director, and I told her I hadn’t been able to enjoy her show properly because I kept analysing it, trying to work out what I’d say about it afterwards. Analysing pieces of theatre and making references and connections comes naturally to me. I see this as a burden, the intellectualism and critical tendency chokes my creative spirit and makes it really hard for me to do anything theatre-related without being constantly self critical, halting any progress. But during the course of the conversation with Louris we realised the tendency to analyse and to make reference to other things in theatre suits the role of a critic perfectly. Louris joked ‘you could be the next Alison Croggon’. (thus exciting me to the level where I wrote everything in capitals for the next few minutes. Yes we were talking over the internet, what, do you think I interact with other humans face to face?). So I thought ‘why not give theatre review blogging a go?’. Rather than just damning my tendency to analyse and place in a broader context, why not put it to good use? In my reviews here I’m not concerned with making a by the numbers summary of the production: how elegant/clumsy the set was, whether the director’s vision complemented the text; assesing each actor’s performance &c. &c. &c. Rather I’ll write some observations I have about the show, and try to analyse why. Or will I do that? I’m not sure. Basically I’ll write whatever I want to write,  with a tendency to diverge into wider ideas. Just letting you know that my reviews are not intended to be comprehensive or play the role that a review in a newspaper does (whatever the hell that is). Oh, and most of what I write will be heavily influenced and referenced to a certain few theatrical thinkers and doers (see recommended reading for details). I welcome, nay crave, comments. True dialogue is lost in our society! Let’s bring it back!

With that, we set off.

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