Adler & Gibb at the Royal Court
A tribute to New York’s conceptual artists Janet Adler and Margaret Gibb, Adler & Gibb is penned and directed by Tim Crouch (supported by Karl James and Andy Smith) and presented on the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs stage at the Royal Court.
“You’d like that, would you, your most private, pinkest, tenderest – small bird, small bird, small fragile – stolen from you, slammed down onto the slab, the block, poked at and paraded”
The play is very experimental: beginning with a bare stage we watch children wander and doodle with headphones on (apparently to protect them from the language and discussions between other characters). A student (Rachel Redford) presents to us her assignment based on Janet Adler, and every time she calls for the next slide, we instead cut to actress Louise (Denise Gough) and her director Sam (Brian Fergusson) rehearsing for a film portraying Adler and Gibb’s life, Louise playing Adler. What they discover, after trespassing into the artists’ house for research purposes is that Gibb (Amelda Brown) is still very much alive. What unfolds is the lengths one goes to to make their art and justify their creativity. Gough’s brutally self-obsessed actress is almost too believable, and Redford’s frustration with the audience who don’t take her student’s presentation seriously is exposing. It’s a reflective piece for the viewer – the delivery is almost a vulgar mirror of our egotistical humanity and our readiness to destroy art for the sake of making it.
The direction of text for the majority of the show is played straight to the audience. This works for the play’s purpose, and actually makes the writer’s ambition with the piece very clear. Adler & Gibb arguably emulates the style of director Sean Holmes who celebrates his work on a sparse set, then gradually crowds his stage with props table and visible technical team, with passionate air between lines while aggressively attacking the audience with uncomfortable tension. Like Holmes’ work, this is a love it or hate it piece but with a tenderness brought about by Redford, passionately juxtaposing Gough’s vulgarity. Fergusson and Brown’s performances are equally as well thought-out – although the use of the children in the piece remains confusing. Overall, an eclectic, experimental play that Crouch will be proud of.
Adler & Gibb is on at Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court until 5th July 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Adler & Gibb here: