Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Thursday, 4 December 2003
The Man Who Lost His Head, La Mama, Dec 4, 2003
The Man Who Lost His Head by James Clayden
La Mama, December 4 to 14, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
The Man Who Lost His Head is a short piece, well under half an hour. Writer- director, James Clayden, combines video with tow live actors, himself and Helen Hopkins.
It is about two films Clayden never made for various reasons but both of which are still rattling around in his head. The show is closer to a performance art piece than theatre.
Clayden begins the piece by playing a snippet of a film with a disjointed voice over. It makes no sense to us until Clayden announces in his low-key, very unactorly voice, that it is a trailer for a film he never finished.
The film was to be called The Man Who Lost His Head. The images from the trailer make more sense when Hopkins appears in a long silky gown and describes the man in the movie.
He is obsessed with photographic images and lives and stares at them long and hard until he falls asleep and his head falls off - perhaps in his dream?.
Once again Clayden's laconic commentary intervenes and he tells us the idea transformed into another film called Unidentified Woman about, he says, the birth of cinema.
It seems to be set in Prague in snow filled streets. Hopkins is seen as the pregnant woman on screen and then on stage speaking poetic text explaining the concept of this film.
What we see live on stage is a series of vignettes in which the man crawls under the woman's long skirts, reappears. He attempts to kill her. She attempts to control him by slamming his head down on the table. He pours a cup of water, spilling it, she grabs it and tips it out.
It is a gladiatorial representation of the birth and death of cinema. The metaphor is stretched perhaps too far and becomes so obscure it is difficult to hold the focus.Hopkins performance is intense and lyrical. Clayden works in a completely different style - anti-actor.
The blended film and theatre world is not concerned with narrative but with psychological impressions and metaphor.
The piece lacks a spine. Perhaps the commentary could have continued throughout as a convention instead of just at the beginning to give it some context.This is an unpredictable but interesting piece.