Enduring Song at Southwark Playhouse
A graduate of East 15 Acting School’s Contemporary Theatre course and founder and director of Bear Trap Theatre Company, Jesse Briton premieres his second original work Enduring Song at the Southwark Playhouse.
To paraphrase the author in his notes, the work is as much about significant figures in the First Crusade as it is about figures in his own family. Enduring Song tackles a host of somewhat timeless themes: family politics, loss, bargains, absence and love. Anchored in 1096, with the occasional smattering of Latin phrases in speech and song, the book otherwise has been written with modern and mischievous language and this perhaps is its muscle.
Performed in the round, Briton’s undoubtedly energetic direction and comprehensive use of the performance space creates moments of quiet intimacy and eruptive adrenaline with equal success. While some character deaths are more convincing than others in the closing scenes, there is a wonderful crescendo of events and for the most part the climatic flow of the piece is good.
There are sound performances from each member of the company with fantastic comedic execution and “bromance”-like chemistry from Max Mackintosh (Hugh) and Jac Husebo (Gaston). A difficult role to befit, Tom Roe’s performance as son, soldier and leader Matthewmatures and improves throughout. Daniel Foxsmith (Georges), Eloise Secker (Jennifer), Alan DeVally (Baldwin) and Moncef Mansur (Ibn) give very strong performances, each with memorable presence. Emma Ballantine shines in the role of Marie, the selective mute and stoic young woman; a natural actress with unwavering honesty and remarkable depth.
The choral arrangements are full-bodied rushes of moving, hedonistic harmony and the percussive interventions are invigorating at times of action. Keith Wallis’ fight direction produces impressive, full-throttle fight scenes that are thrilling to watch and re executed with convincing vigour from each cast member who wields a weapon. All scene and prop changes are carried out swiftly and stylistically by cast members, which ensures a smooth pace. Costumes by Clare Amos are beautifully simple and in line with the relaxed historic brief of the piece, and suggestive lighting by Seth Rook Williams enhances the performances and the theatre’s potential as a space of imagining.
Accessible due to its unfussy approach to historical documentation and sincere examination of a range of relationships and personalities, this is what new theatre should be: lively, relevant and relatable.
Enduring Love is at Southwark Playhouse until 5th July 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.