Tuesday, 16 January 2018

CD Review: Sinners Got Soul Too, Peyton (Peyton Music, 2018)


The strong and soulful singing of Christopher Peyton carries the 13 fantastic tracks that make up Sinners Got Soul Too with conviction and assurance. The release of this album is the latest step on a pretty unpredictable journey that's taken the artist from the churches of Virginia (where his father was a Pentecostal preacher) to the clubs of Ibiza, where he gained fame as a vocalist for house producers.

Those influences are at once felt, embraced and transcended on this new release, which combines soul and gospel flourishes with tip-top pop production values, resulting in a set that's much more eclectic and emotionally satisfying than the dancefloor would allow. Peyton spreads his wings on this record, and the results are beautiful to behold.

As the song titles - "Keep on Rising," "I'll Rise," "A Higher Place," "All Ways Up" - suggest, the element of uplift in the lyrics could become repetitious. Yet the songs emerge as individual, characterful and not too glossy overall. In collaboration with producer James Reynolds, Peyton puts distinctive spins on the material with committed vocals and smart musical approaches. The album's cohesiveness is particularly impressive given that a couple of the featured tracks (such as the aforementioned "A Higher Place") first emerged some years ago.

The immediate standout is "When They Go Low," an impeccable piece of stirring power pop which, of course, takes its title from a certain famed National Democratic Convention speech, and even comes complete with a Michelle Obama sample. The spare exhortation of the opener "Keep on Rising," the confident bustle of "Carry You," the funky reggae textures of "Joy," the luscious hymnal love song "Be My Enough," the combative crunch of "Jericho," and the sweeping, cinematic closer "My Song 4 U" prove equally infectious and appealing.

Quieter, lower-key moments, such as an acoustic take on Ben Harper's setting of Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise" and a heartfelt cover of "True Colors," also register. About as good as contemporary pop music gets, it's easy to imagine several of these uplifting and addictive songs becoming huge hits. They deserve to be.

Sinners Got Soul Too is released on 9 February. Peyton plays at Pizza Express, Holborn (17 January), Pizza Express , Birmingham (10 February), and Crazy Coqs, London (16 February). Further information here

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Theatre Review: Into the Numbers (Finborough)


(Image: Scott Rylander)

As previously proven a couple of years ago with its brilliant, bruising production of Colleen Murphy’s Pig Girl, the Finborough isn’t a theatre that believes in easing us into the New Year with something cosy. And those already overdosed on festive theatrical fun may be relieved to discover that the theatre is kicking off 2018 with a similarly intense and uncompromising piece: Into the Numbers, by Obie award-winning playwright Christopher Chen, which is here receiving its European premiere.
Georgie Staight’s production of Chen’s play marks two significant anniversaries. For starters, it’s the  first production to be staged at the Finborough in the 150th year of the building. More soberingly, the production also commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Nanking massacre, the genocide perpetrated against Chinese soldiers and civilians by Japanese troops after the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in December 1937. Encouraged and enabled by the Japanese military leadership, the genocide resulted in over 300,000 deaths, as well as thousands of incidents of torture and sexual assault.
The focus of Chen’s play is not precisely the genocide itself, however, but rather its echoes and reverberations many years later. The play’s protagonist is Iris Chang, the Chinese-American historian whose 1997 book about the massacre, The Rape of Nanking, became an international bestseller. And the drama posits a link between Chang’s work on the book (and, more particularly, the media circus that resulted from its success and controversy) and the author’s decision to take her own life, at the age of 36, in 2004.
The play initially takes the form of a lecture/interview/Q&A session. Brisk, professional and quietly impassioned, Elizabeth Chan, as Chang, takes to a lectern to deliver her talk on what happened in Nanking, and her assessment of it moral and historical implications. But the drama’s main aim is to present a psychological portrait of its protagonist, one that reveals the toll that researching genocide, and regurgitating its horrors at public events, may take upon an individual. (As the title suggests, numbers are a motif, with Chang obsessively questioned about how Nanking compares to other atrocities in terms of the amount of people killed.)
While Chang tells her interviewer that she’s able to “compartmentalise” her research and her life, the play suggests that this may not have been the case, and does so by distinctive theatrical means that enact, rather than merely evoking, a disturbing blurring of boundaries. A victim’s relative (Jennifer Lim), expressing her gratitude for Chan’s book at a Q&A, morphs into a victim herself. The Japanese Deputy Ambassador (Mark Ota), justifying his country’s past acts with chillingly genial complacency, returns to confront Chang as a soldier at Nanking, suggesting that readers “enjoy” the horrors described in her book. An interviewer becomes Chang’s husband and then a doctor (Timothy Knightley, tripling up). These figures are, we come to understand, projections of Chang’s fears and anxieties, revealing the ways in which her work on genocide has disturbed her beliefs about the nature of evil and alerted her to the limitations of rational explanation.
Plays about a protagonist’s downward spiral have an inevitable trajectory, and Chen’s writing doesn’t quite sustain the drama’s impact in some of the later confrontations. The viewer may also feel a little bit of discomfort about the play’s use of Chang’s story, particularly as the evening progresses. Still, anchored by Chan’s committed, moving performance, Staight’s simply staged production negotiates the play’s surreal shifts between time, space and consciousness with fluidity and assurance. The evening benefits considerably from an atmospheric sound design by Benjamin Winter, a spare set by Isabella Van Braeckel, and Matt Cater’s lighting, with nine strips of lights that dim and illuminate to the pulse of the drama. If the play sometimes seems more like a sketch than a deep exploration of its themes, it remains thought-provoking, and, in Staight’s sharp production, achieves moments of hallucinatory power.

Booking until 27 January. 
Reviewed for The Reviews Hub

Monday, 18 December 2017

Theatre 2017: 10 Favourite Productions

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (Harold Pinter Theatre) 
(Photo: Johan Persson)

MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN (Teatr Narodowy, Warsaw) 
(Photo: Krzysztof Bieliński)

THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYICH (Attic/Merton Arts Space)
(Photo: Claudia Marinaro)
[Review]
ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse)
(Photo: Steve Tanner) 
[Review]



JOAN (Ovalhouse)
[Review]


AN OCTOROON (Orange Tree) 
(Photo: The Other Richard)


TWELFTH NIGHT (Globe)
(Photos: Jane Hobson)
[
Review]

CZAROWNICE Z SALEM (THE CRUCIBLE) (Teatr Jaracza, Łódź)

WINTER SOLSTICE (Orange Tree) 
[Review]


THE GLASS MENAGERIE (Duke of York's)
 (Photo: Johan Persson)



Bonus: Twelfth Night (National Theatre), Happy (Vault Festival), Directors' Festival (Orange Tree) [review]

(Photo: Robert Day)


Worst: Obsession (Barbican) 







Monday, 11 December 2017

Review of the Year: Cinema 2017: 15 Favourite Films


I was only able to cover one film festival - Transatlantyk Festival here in Łódź - in 2017, but nonetheless managed to see a pretty good range of films from all over the world throughout the year: one of the benefits of living in a cinephile's city. Hollywood mainly disappointed or disgusted (on screen and off), but elsewhere there was much to celebrate and to be inspired by. There were some great communal experiences - the shared laughter at Lost in Paris, the shared shock and awe at mother! - but, most of all, 2017's films felt like very private and interior experiences to me, making spaces for reflection that I'm truly grateful for, especially in the current climate. In no particular order, here are fifteen of my favourites of the year (plus extras, disappointments and non-favourites).




A Ciambra (dir. Jonas Carpignano)
Jonas Carpignano's debut feature Mediterranea (2015) was an intimate drama of contemporary immigration experience that combined the humanism of a Vittorio De Sica with the rough sensuality of a Claire Denis. Produced by Scorsese, A Ciambra is a superb semi-sequel that switches the spotlight to Mediterranea's precocious tearaway (Pio Amato) as he comes of age in the Romani community of Gioia Tauro and faces difficult  choices of allegiance.






Frantz (dir. François Ozon)
L’amant double (dir. François Ozon) 
I'd started to give up on Ozon after several lacklustre efforts  (Young and Beautiful and The New Girlfriend, ugh).  But Frantz and L’amant double constituted a terrific return to form that neatly encapsulated the two sides of the director’s sensibility: elegant, earnest classicism, on the one hand, and trashy, sexy cheek, on the other. The films were linked by twisty, but brilliantly lucid, cinematic story-telling, fine performances, and freshly subversive takes on that habitual Ozon theme: the possibility (or otherwise) of substitution and replacement. 





Lost in Paris (dir. Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel)
The only film I saw this year that made me weep with laughter, this joyous comedy of City of Lights misadventures serves up some blissful Tatiesque slapstick as it brings together a meek (yet increasingly intrepid) Canadian librarian and a cheerful vagabond in the search for an errant Aunt. With Emmanuelle Riva belatedly proving herself a comedy virtuosa in one of her last screen roles.   




God’s Own Country (dir. Francis Lee)
Francis Lee makes a beautiful debut film here, charting the love affair between an unhappy young Yorkshireman (Josh O’Connor) and the watchful Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu) who’s hired to help out on the former’s farm. The pair’s progression from hostility to tenderness is poignantly and perceptively charted, creating a love story of contrasting  personalities to rival Weekend (2011) as well as another fine entry into the growing canon of contemporary British rural dramas. O'Connor and Secareanu are terrific, and there's subtly amazing supporting work from Gemma Jones and Ian Hart; in fact, I'd put this in a double-bill with Tom Browne's Radiator (2014), another great Jones-starrer, that's also among the best British films of the last few years. 


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A Ghost Story (dir. David Lowery)
Rooney Mara is a vacuum, Casey Affleck’s more expressive with the sheet over his head than without it, and the whole thing starts out like an arch hipster take on Truly Madly Deeply. Yet A Ghost Story reveals grander, weirder designs as it progresses, and I gradually found myself captivated and  deeply moved by the odd rhythms and juxtapositions of this singular odyssey through time and space.




Maudie (dir. Aisling Walsh)
“The whole of life, already framed, right there.” A superb performance from Sally Hawkins is the centrepiece of Walsh’s lovely, low-key biopic of the Canadian “primitive” artist Maud Lewis. As much as a portrait of the artist, the film is a portrait of a relationship, and one that doesn’t shy away from difficult, complicated emotions. To that end, Hawkins is ably supported by Ethan Hawke as the uncommunicative grump of a spouse whose worldview (not to mention windows and walls) is gradually changed by his wife’s spontaneous artistry.



mother! (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
“Baby…?” From domestic unease to full-scale apocalyptic vision, Darren Aronofsky’s latest was by turns chilling, ludicrous and powerful: a delicious slow-burn turned orgy of excess that has a lot on its mind - including creativity, the insanity of celeb culture, spatial transgression and gender roles - as it reveals the allegorical implications at the heart of the house. Richard Brody puts it best in his fine review.




Manifesto (dir. Julian Rosefeldt)
Strange Little Girls Goes to the Movies, as Cate Blanchett slips into thirteen personas to deliver a range of manifestos in settings that are occasionally complementary but mostly delightfully incongruous.  Dada ignites a fierce graveside eulogy while Claes Oldenburg’s “I am for an art…”  provides the basis for  a conservative family’s prayer; in the final section, the focus turns, beautifully, to film, as a teacher offers a lesson that veers from Brakhage to Dogme. What sounds like an exercise in pretension proves to be a surprisingly funny, enjoyable, humane and dramatic as well as a challenging experience, with  Blanchett using the mannerism that’s come to define some of her screen performances to best effect (and with a dose or two of self-parody), as she creates some indelible presences.  “I am for an art…” well, rather like this one, as it turns out.  



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Summer 1993 (dir. Carla Simón)
A beautiful Catalonian film that captures the contours of a grief that’s barely been comprehended, let alone assimilated, Simón's movie charts the struggles of  the orphaned Frida (Laia Artigas) to settle into living with her Aunt and Uncle following her mother’s death from AIDS-related pneumonia. Alert to the rhythms of childish play and the casual cruelty that can underpin it, Simón has made a deeply personal film based on her own experience, but one that never feels self-indulgent or that locks the viewer out. The handling of the child actors is beyond praise, with Artigas and Paula Robles (as her little cousin Anna) creating a girlhood double act to rival those in Carlos Sauras Cria Cuervos (1975), Victor Erices The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (a clear intertext for the film), and Dorota Kędzierzawska’s  Crows (1994).


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Chavela (dir. Gund and Kyi)
Working against the popular doomed-female-artist mode of Asif Kapadia’s Amy (2015) and Nick Broomfield’s Whitney: Can I Be Me? (2017), Gund and Kyi’s doc Chavela is a triumphant rejoinder that, without sanctifying its subject, offers  a loving tribute to the iconic singer who shook up Mexican music with her extraordinary voice and challenging persona. In a film that elegantly combines interviews with footage of the singer’s intense performances, Pedro Almodóvar puts it best, as he describes seeing Vargas perform live: “She was like a priestess: she saw that you’d made mistakes in love, and she saw your deep torments. You felt that shed absolved you of your sins - and then encouraged you to commit them again.”


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My Happy Family (dir. Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross) 
A 50-something teacher leaves her troublesome family and moves into a modest Tbilisi apartment by herself. That action yields funny, painful and surprising results in Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross's perfectly picthed drama, which deals with the always-challenging negotiation between our own desires and the demands or expectations of others. 



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A Quiet Passion (dir. Terence Davies)
Not without some awkwardness - the Wildean pastiche of the opening scenes is a little much  - Davies’s portrait of Emily Dickinson deepens as it progresses, creating a film that ends up as strange and single-minded as its subject. And after her amazing work as the dying matriarch in Josh Mond's  James White, here's another transcendent performance from Cynthia Nixon. 


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Insyriated (dir. Philippe Van Leeuw)
From A Ghost Story to A Quiet Passion, mother! to Maudie, expressive use of domestic space  distinguished many 2017 films that I liked, none more so than Philipe van Leeuw’s distilled and intense drama that documented 24 hours in the life of a Syrian family (and neighbours) holed up in their home during a siege in Damascus.  


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Little Men (dir. Ira Sachs)
Though  a 2016 release, I can’t not include Ira Sachs’s superb drama, which I was  able to see for the first time this year, and which was among the films that affected me most profoundly. Shot in the same bright, airy, welcoming style as Love is Strange, to which it forms a clear companion piece, this portrait of a teen friendship tested by real estate market forces was quiet, observant and compassionate towards all its characters. (Imagine if Ken Loach had taken on similar material...)   


Image result for pokot images agnieszka holland



BonusPokot (Holland), The Bekscinkis: A Sound and Picture Album (Borchardt), Centaur (Kubat), The Sense of an Ending (Batra), Paris Can Wait (Coppola), The Eagle Huntress (Bell), Tehran Taboo (Soozandeh), It Comes at Night (Shults), The Lost City of Z (Gray), Heal the Living (Quillevere), La Familia (Rondón Córdova), Wonder Wheel (Allen), Their Finest (Scherfig), Lady Macbeth (Oldroyd), Waiting for B. (Toledo/Spindel).

Favourite DVD Reissues: Daughters of the Dust (Dash), Life is Sweet (Leigh).

Disappointed: The Square (Östlund), Call Me By Your Name (Guadagnino), The Florida Project (Baker), The Party (Potter), I Am Not Your NegroGet Out (Peele) (On the latter, God bless you, Armond White). 

Worst:  Wind River (Sheridan), Let the Sunshine In (Denis), Song to Song (Malick), Return to Montauk (Schlondorff), Aurore (Blandine Lenoir).

Still Unseen: DunkirkHuman FlowLady Bird, Faces Places, Phantom Thread. 


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

CD Review: Nighthawks, Peter Horsfall (APP Records, 2017)



Reviewing Peter Horsfall's delightful jazz EP How Can We Know? last summer, I expressed my hope that it would be the prelude to a full LP soon. Well, just over a year on, Horsfall has released his debut album, and the results more than build on the promise of the EP. With a title borrowed from Edward Hopper, a lovely cover design that tips its cap to Tom Waits, and beautiful booklet paintings by Cecile McLorin Salvant, Nighthawks is darker-textured and more ambient than How Can We Know? It's a complete, cohesive package that conjures nocturnal ambience across its 10 carefully sequenced tracks, which include three appealing instrumental interludes. Horsfall has described the album as "a tribute to the ballad form," and  old and original material blends seamlessly, with Horsfall's vocals accompanied by sensitive backing from his Kansas Smitty's House Band bandmates: Giacomo Smith on sax, Joe Webb on piano, Ferg Ireland on double bass and Pedro Segundo on drums.

The absence of Horsfall's distinctive trumpet-playing may be a disappointment, but it's compensated for by the strength of his vocal performances here. The opening bar-room croon of the superb title track is instantly seductive, as Horsfall's light, airy tenor finds deeper resonances. Indeed, the album succeeds in bringing out a variety of fresh qualities in his voice while maintaining a consistency of tone, from a superb take on "Sunset & the Mockingbird," which weds new lyrics to Duke Ellington's melody, through the heartfelt declaration of "Couldn't Stop Lovin' You, with its subtly swoony backing vocals and guest appearance by David Archer on guitar, to the elegant farewell of "This is Goodbye." In a silly season dominated by cobbled-together Christmas release cash-ins, the depth and authenticity of Nighthawks is immediately refreshing. It's a lovely album that deserves wide exposure.  


You can listen to tracks from Nighthawks and buy the album here.



Friday, 27 October 2017

Theatre Review: Romantics Anonymous (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse)




Forget Follies. (And, believe me, when it comes to that damn “Loveland” sequence, I’m still trying to....) A little further down the Southbank there’s now a lovely, intimate, humanly-scaled alternative. As the opening production of her final “Winter Season” as Globe Artistic Director, Emma Rice has turned the stage of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse into a chocolate factory, adapting Jean-Pierre Améris’s 2010 French-Belgian rom com Les émotifs anonymes into a sweetheart of a new musical that charms and amuses throughout.

Rice and the Globe board may not have proved to be an ideal match, but Rice and “le cinéma Français” certainly are, as previously demonstrated by Kneehigh’s glorious take on Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg back in 2011. Romantics Anonymous has a similar kind of spirit to that show: ludic and loving, soulful and silly, by turns. But, though difficult themes are glanced at, there’s much less melancholy in this material. Working with lyricist Christopher Dimond and composer Michael Kooman, Rice makes Romantics Anonymous into the equivalent of a big, warm hug: just what’s needed to brighten winter nights.  

The plot concerns the burgeoning romance between two characters with social anxiety issues. Angélique is a timid girl who, wishing to build her confidence, starts attending sessions at the “Les émotifs anonymes” support group. Through a contact there she ends up working as a sales rep at the chocolate factory run by Jean-René, a guy who, it turns out, is even more introverted than she is, as he skulks in his office listening to passive aggressive self-help tapes. A disastrous date follows, before love starts to blossom. But with the factory under threat, Angélique may be called upon to truly overcome her inhibitions and reveal her own secret chocolate-making skills.

Rice has said that she wanted to make Romantics Anonymous “very European” in tone, but in many ways the show feels British through and through: I found myself thinking of The Two Ronnies and Dinnerladies at various points. As in Cherbourg, the Frenchness of the source is intermittently played up with “haw-hee-haw-ing” cheek, particularly when the beret- and striped-shirt-sporting ensemble archly croon the hilarious “Don’t Think about Love” while wheeling out a bed and flinging rose petals for our hero and heroine’s first night together.

Dimond and Kooman have talked about French influences on the score, too – from Satie to Debussy – and, played here by a skilled quartet (Sophie Creaner on woodwind, Mike Porter on percussion, Llinos Richards on cello and MD Jim Henson on piano), the music has a lovely, light, gently undulating quality, with just enough bite and quirk to make revisiting the score an attractive proposition. The lyrics are variable, but sung with conviction by the cast, who seize on the wittiest lines and deliver them with gusto.

Indeed, Rice has recruited many of her favourite actors for this confection (including several from her Twelfth Night, which opened the “Summer of Love” season back in May). They all shine, with Carly Bawden (Twelfth Night’s minx of a Maria) and Dominic Marsh making a charmingly awkward pair; they’re especially delightful when singing together on “Some Things are Too Good for Words,” as funny and sweetly sexy a duet as recent musical theatre has offered.

Bawden and Marsh are well supported by a superb ensemble who multitask with gleeful aplomb, whether it’s Marc Antolin as a computer geek and a strident chef, or Joanna Riding moving from gruff Corrie-ish factory worker to incongruously sexy matriarch. (Riding also takes the wheel for one of the funniest driving sequences that the stage has seen recently.) I also loved Gareth Snook as both Angélique’s father-figure benefactor and a highly-strung prospective female buyer, and Natasha Jayetileke as the support group attendee who’s so bad at saying “No” that she buys PPI twice a week. (Since Rice, in her "Letter" regarding her departure from the Globe, seemed to define herself as a people-pleaser, can we detect a bit of wry self-portraiture here?) Lez Brotherston’s glowing design (with location shifts signalled by neon signs) also helps to keep the proceedings fleet and fluid, and Etta Murfitt’s witty choreography makes the most of the small space. 

Romantics Anonymous is slight, and those resistant to Rice’s brand of whimsy will doubtless find it too winsome a proposition – though in fact there’s a steely undercurrent to the show's presentation of the courage it takes to embrace change and face fears. The ending feels a bit rushed, and not quite magical enough, yet. Still, small of scale but huge of heart, this show is a charmer, and a perfect start to the final season of Rice’s all-too-brief time at the helm of the Globe.

Romantics Anonymous is booking until 6 January. Further information here

Theatre Review: The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Merton Arts Space, & touring)



Published in 1886, Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich remains among the most immediate and moving of all literary meditations on mortality, documenting the demise of a seemingly successful man, a legal functionary, as he belatedly questions the value and purpose of his life. Rosemary Edwards, a translator of the text, describes the novella as “a powerful, sombre record…[It] gives what Tolstoy required art to give: it is kinetic, moving the reader to intense pity and awareness of the spiritually therapeutic properties of prolonged physical suffering finally resolved in death.”
Sounds a cheerful proposition, right? Well, Stephen Sharkey, in his expert new stage adaptation of the novella, succeeds in retaining the intense moral seriousness of Tolstoy’s vision while also incorporating some elements of dark humour – a touch of Beckettian irony – into the mix. Sharkey has shaped the narrative into a dramatic monologue performed by one actor in under one hour, and while this has resulted in some necessary stripping away – of elements of social context, of the protagonist’s background and family history – the essentials remain, sometimes even gaining potency in their new form as an embodied, closely shared theatrical experience. This is adaptation as distillation, and Sharkey, whose other adaptations include writings by Dickens and Dostoyevsky, has done a hugely impressive job of giving Tolstoy’s work a vivid, fresh and immersive theatrical life.
Pungent and wry, Sharkey’s text is expertly served by Attic Theatre’s production, directed by the company’s Artistic Director Jonathan Humphreys, which (as staged at Merton Arts Space) makes the play into a thrillingly intimate experience. At once eerie and welcoming, Grace Venning and Jess Bernberg’s brilliant design (set/costume and lighting, respectively) places the audience at tables lit by lanterns, conjuring an atmosphere of séance that feels entirely appropriate for Sharkey’s revisioning of the material as a ghost story of sorts. Jack Tarlton’s spectre-like Ivan takes his place amongst us, a spirit who’s unsure if we can see him. Once reassured, he begins to tell his tale: that of a St. Petersburg-born magistrate whose life – with its unhappy marriage, social climbing, gambling, and Law Court duties – is abruptly curtailed when he’s struck down with a mysterious illness some time after an accident.
As Ivan – by turns bitter, denying, scared, confused and questioning – gradually confronts his fate, so other presences (a dim prospective son-in-law, a hypocritical friend, a kindly young peasant carer) come into focus, with Sharkey also spotlighting Tolstoy’s indelible image of impending mortality as “the black sack,” both feared and desired by the protagonist. 


A show as intimate as this one naturally stands or falls in large part on the strength of its actor, and it’s hard to see how Tarlton’s performance as Ivan could be bettered. From the opening moments, Tarlton makes us his fellows and confidantes, directing lines at individual audience members, taking a seat at certain tables, or even (in a gesture evoking the already-famed performance art set-piece in Ruben Östlund's new film The Square [2017]) climbing atop one table to lay himself out as a corpse. Now still, now charging, Tarlton’s attention to the rhythms of the text is evident vocally as well as physically, and he keeps a palpable tension in the air, not allowing us to forget that Ivan’s fate is the common fate of everyone present. There’s catharsis in that recognition too, though, and Tarlton brings to Ivan’s journey a true sense of spiritual and emotional progression. It’s a terrific performance, rich and generous, unsentimental and intensely felt, and one that’s destined to make a deeply personal impression on all who see it.
In another generous gesture, Attic have been staging a stripped down, “pop up” version of the show, for free, at libraries in the Merton area. It’s to be hoped that Humphreys’s haunting production, and Tarlton’s great performance, continue to get the further life that they deserve.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich was performed at Merton Arts Space between the 6 and 29 October 2017, before one night at Theatre N16, and four free performances at libraries in the Merton borough.
Photos: Claudia Marinaro