Wednesday, 2 December 1998

Evidence, Dec 2, 1998

 devised by James Clayden
 La Mama until Dec 20, 1998
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Deconstructed text in the theatre can be like a sculpture assembled from numerous individual pieces: the combination may be greater than the parts. Alternatively, the final product may simply be a conglomeration of unrelated fragments that have no sense, no beauty and do not enlighten.

Evidence, a performance adapted by artist James Clayden from Joseph Conrad's Secret Agent and The Dramatic Symphony by Andrey Bely, has some interesting moments particularly in the latter half of its 45 minutes. It does not, however, quite make it as an effective junk sculpture. It is never a good sign when one needs to read the program notes for an inkling of meaning.

Four actors, (Shelley Lasica, Tom Wright, Peter Green, Helen Hopkins) appear awkward initially with the text which is self-referential repetitive, incomprehensible and totally humourless. It develops a sense of irony and draws further on Conrad's characters in the last 20 minutes that was a great relief. Prior to this, it is, "Effectively communicating the difficulty of effective communication."

The two women read extracts from folders in their hands. the men speak as if in a courtroom, about evidence or about wanting to write something Piles of manila folders are shifted as are large panels of cardboard painted glossy red and black. There is no relationship between characters; indeed there are no characters as this piece works in an abstract and stylised form.

Ironically, Evidence seems to be an attack on text-based theatre and yet it relies heavily on its text having minimal movement, soundscape or design to support it. My concern is that the disconnected components, although layered one upon the other, remain disassociated. There is no greater work of art arising from the welded sculpture. It lacks atmosphere.

Tom Wright is particularly compelling in this piece, both vocally and physically. He projects some sense of humour from the beginning. The two women seem uncomfortable throughout.

My criticism is not an attack on deconstruction in art. It can be an elevating and stylish mode of creating theatre. Evidence is a leap into the obscure which could , in some other form, work as theatre but feels too much like the New York avant-garde of 20 years ago.

Evidence is performing in tandem with poet, Alison Croggin's Monologues for an Apocalypse that has the same director and cast.

Kate Herbert

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