A Piece of the Continent: A Voice, Dark Matter and Don’t You Dare! at the Tristan Bates Theatre
A Piece of The Continent comprises of nine theatrical productions spanning over a month-long programme that presents a unique overview of European theatre. Grouped into a trio of successive pieces, the evening promises a visual feast of puppetry, masks and microcinema paired with physical theatre and a huge variety of cultural, political and emotional collaborations.
The first of the three plays on offer is an anglo-french piece called A Voice. This solo show unveils the uneasy rise to stardom of French singer Angèle. Her reflective tale starts at a press conference and works its way backwards. It’s intimate and, at times, all too familiar. A music lothario manipulates an innocent, adolescent girl, masterminding her career to the heady heights of stardom with his “piercing blue eyes and carnivorous” guise, only for it to end with a scandalous trauma that finally frees her from his emotional clutches. Anne Bertreau is beguiling in her role, playing the malleable young girl with ease. Her tinkering vocals and swift costume changes move the timeline along and ripples of the #metoo movement are cast over the audience as we watch the character fall under his spell.
The second piece, Dark Matter, focuses on brain function and the unavoidable mental demise of those living with dementia. Using a Bunraku puppet to portray Alfie, an elderly ex-astrophysicist and care home resident, a fluid cast of actors move and speak for the figurine as he’s manoeuvred around the stage. Combining the external use of contemporary dance movements, masks and tiny led lights, they sensitively portray the anger, confusion and the ultimate fantasy world that accompany the condition. The joy of this piece is the rarity of its exploration. It’s a highly emotive play but it’s handled so carefully, also opening our eyes to the scientific undertones of this debilitating disease.
The final play of the evening, Don’t You Dare, reverts once again to a one-woman show, this time starring the Italian award-winning director Chiara D’Anna. The audience are taken on a surreal journey through 16th-century Italy that highlights the church’s disapproval regarding the rise of the theatrical Commedia dell’Arte, resulting in the persecution of women they wrongly accuse of witchcraft. Several pantomime-style costume changes alongside energetic role-playing have the audience in stitches, the actress interacting and educating as she explores the political repression of these women. Boundless energy gives way to some utterly beautiful, heart-wrenching performances and a striking balance between Italian and English dialogue extract from the piece every possible ounce of wonderful authenticity.
The intimacy of the set makes the performers radiate with conviction, unearthing challenging political and social matters and thought-provoking historical events. A Piece of the Continent is unique in uncovering universal issues and each play has been sensitively directed in an utterly absorbing way.
Photo: Dark Matter, Vertebra Theatre
A Piece of the Continent is at the Tristan Bates Theatre from 8th April until 27th April 2019. A Voice, Dark Matter and Don’t You Dare! are running from 8th April until 13th April 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.