Burton Taylor Theatre
9 September 2009 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews Chloé Déchery and Chris Eley have created in U seful Knowledge to Know a piece of theatre that is enigmatic, annoying, technically fluid, self-indulgent and ultimately, charming. Déchery delivers a performance-cum-lecture on the subject of language and its eccentricities, its importance and its presence in every part of the world around us. Her props are a simple table and chair, vase and flowers, paper and pen. Eley’s visuals are constant, always appropriate and used perfectly at every point and Déchery herself is a complex and interesting performer. The problem here is that the quality of the vignettes on offer here varies enormously.
The first ten minutes of the show are self-referential nonsense that could have been lost at no detriment to the piece. Similarly, the attempts to explore the humour and tragedy in misunderstandings across languages fall flat. The final section involving Déchery running in circles around the space is simply baffling.
On the other hand, when the wordsmithery stops and Déchery switches to physicality to bring the secret language of her table and chair to life, the results are lovely. Despite her telling us that she is not a dancer, her movement is elegant and her body’s message is poignant. What is oddly ironic is that in a piece that takes as its starting point the complexity of language, the most emotional moments were produced by the most direct methods possible, a dancer moving to the tune of delicate piano notes.
Despite the fact that much of the show overly thought out and under-engaging and those sections that do work, such as the table and chair dance and the coda of the train story use a relatively blunt technique, there is an awful lot going on in this little show and its one can’t help feeling earnestly charmed by it. Whilst it should be regarded as a failed experiment, theatre would be dead and cold if it wasn’t for the attempts of artists like Déchery & Eley to illuminate that basic human urge for understanding.
In acknowledgement of its flaws, I can’t rate
Useful Knowledge to Know any higher than I have, but I do urge everyone who reads this review before this evening to make an effort to see the show. I don’t think there is a higher recommendation than that.
- Josh Tomalin
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