Gertrude: The Cry at Theatre N16
The LWL Theatre Company began their lacklustre presentation of Howard Barker’s Gertrude: The Cry at the N16 Theatre on 12th June. The play tells the story of Hamlet but from his mother’s perspective, exploring female physical emancipation, sexuality and the power of lust. But the play simply doesn’t draw the attention of the fidgeting audience, with the majority of the delivery sadly falling flat. Much of the tumultuous angst and longing that is well, if somewhat bluntly, presented by Izabella Urbanowicz’s portrayal of the title role is quickly smothered by a return to confused dialogue.
Brief moments of humour and sorrow do manage to break through, drawing laughter from the small crowd the quaint theatre houses. In particular, Gertrude’s loyal servant Cascan, played by Stephen Oswald, produces many of the best moments through his solid and emotive performance, which stands out in its clarity and intensity. Whilst all seven actors involved have such moments, the general hubub that occurs quickly dampens them.
This is the work’s first major revival since its debut in 2002, and the LWL Company are brave to take on such a stark play. Sadly the theatre itself does not help, as the flat rows of seating make viewing difficult, diminishing much of the shock factor. The staging is simple: plain white with minimal props only slightly raised from the crowd – a fittingly bare platform. The costumes are similarly understated, the cast dressed predominantly in the “good” and “evil” of black and white. There is an obvious link made between modern, sleek clothing in black and sexuality, seen in particular through Regusa’s change from a white dress to a suggestive black trench coat. The sound, however, is clunky and heavy-handed, mirroring the kaleidoscopic images projected at one end of the stage, whose effect adds little to the atmosphere – both are added ungracefully, becoming quickly distracting.
This play and its actors share moments of flare and expression, but as a whole it falls short in many other factors, ultimately failing in its key intention: to shock. Sadly, it leaves one a bit bored.
Photos: Roy Tan
Gertrude: The Cry is on at Theatre N16 from 12th until 30th June 2016, for further information or to book visit here.