Some years ago, playwright Mark Ravenhill proposed a temporary moratorium on art and culture. His reason? It was the only way he could possibly catch up on all the music, books, films and plays he wanted to hear, read and see.
This year’s Queer up North has offered up a surplus of riches - so much that one or two productions have fallen through the cracks. Any other day of the week, and a show as staggeringly original as Cruel Tales of Youth would have punters queuing for returns; competing against Wound Man and Shirley in the same venue, Italian company Motus managed to attract less than thirty people. Ravenhill, you may have a point.
Founded in 1991 by Enrico Casagrande and Daniela Nicolo, Motus mix art forms, languages and live performance, to create a unique brand of high-tech multimedia theatre. A crucial part of Cruel Tales is its use of epic, black and white computer animation. Pixels grow on screen, and spiral into focus, revealing a series of anonymous European cities. ‘We are weeds, wandering grass that dies in one place’ reads a piece of graffiti, daubed on a wall. Indeed.
Today the power of the internet is perceived as a double-edged sword; message boards for the young and disaffected are one advance which doesn’t get enough praise. Quotes fill the screen, alongside voice over stories of knife crime, homelessness and family breakdown. In one of the show’s most startling sequences, a young girl describes the struggle of trying to discover her own identity. Initially, the footage looks like a late night firework display. As the bangs grow louder, we see it’s actually a city under siege.
The four young, multi-national performers – Silvia Calderoni, Sergio Policicchio, Mario Ponce-Enrile, and Lucia Puricelli – easily hold their own against this wall of technology. All have a special talent (roller blading included) and Casagrande gives each one the chance to shine. At the close, the voice over changes to that of an older man, reminiscing about his teenage years in 50’s Leeds. Tales of Youth may have been different then but there was cruelty of another stripe. The final reveal is simple but brilliantly effective.
This is Motus’ first ever visit to the UK. Let’s hope they’re not too discouraged from returning.