The Marked at OvalhouseCultureTheatre
Brought by the company Theatre Témoin, The Marked is the result of 18 months of workshops carried out with people who have experienced homelessness. The storyline came to life as different personal accounts merged into one narrative. Determined to explore narration beyond dialogue, the group mixes physical theatre and puppetry in order to touch the audience on a deeper, rawer level.
Jack is a homeless man haunted by monsters and demons who turn out to be projections of his childhood fears and the distorted images of his troubled caregivers. As he attempts to deal with his subconscious, Jack meets a vulnerable pregnant girl, Sophie, and her aggressive boyfriend Pete, who are also homeless.
In spite of her reluctance to interact with Jack, Sophie awakens something within him that resonates with his childhood hopes and his belief in magic. He entrusts her with a torch that he suspects to have special powers, but as his fantasy world takes over, the storyline blurs before truly taking shape.
As The Marked is a devised work born out of improvisation, it is clear that its characters were conceived in the rehearsal room rather than on paper, and they sometimes seem to lack substance. Physicality is the prominent feature of the performance and, together with the use of masks that add a magical and eerie quality to Jack’s memories, they make up for the show’s weak structure.
The plot is sparse and rather disjointed, but the power of the play is in its execution. The initial intent to narrate a story gradually fades in favour of creating a mood through visual means. While the audience is not given much dialogue to work with, the Theatre Témoin group largely relies on the body’s storytelling ability. The characters and dialogues are mere pins on a map, used to orient spectators through Jack’s hazy fantasy world.
The use of puppetry takes the production beyond the banal as it evokes raw feelings of alienation and the protagonist’s intense desire to connect. A fence, a dumpster and wooden crates are enough to set the scene: a rundown backstreet. When the magical creatures and masked characters make an appearance, they emerge in ingenious ways that help create a sense of Jack’s inner and outer world melting together.
The visual effects keep the audience glued to the action even when the plot slackens, so the experience is ultimately satisfying as the powerful imagery lingers in the mind long after viewing.
The Marked is at Ovalhouse from 13th until 22nd October 2016, for further information or to book visit here.