Lecoq is a name that the devised theatre community have no problem
taking in vain. Put 'Lecoq-inspired' in your marketing material and
you've got yourself a licence to swan around with masks and mime,
making theatre that is all too often style over substance.
done properly, of course, this genre of performance can be extremely
effective and artistically satisfying. Just because there are a lot of
rubbish imitators around doesn't mean that the real thing shouldn't be celebrated. And
is very much the real thing.
face hidden behind a characterful hand-held mask, his body crumpled
Mann (who also directs) plays William, an old man struggling to cope
with the death of his wife. Everything he sees – a favourite tea
cup, a battered suitcase – conjures up memories of Rose (Deborah
Pugh) and their life together. We see these scenes in flashback,
Mann and Pugh removing their masks to travel back in time to the
moment when Rose gets a new job, when William goes off to fight, when
the couple suffer a personal tragedy.
show's name is taken from the Yeats poem, 'The Tower', which Mann
read after the death of his father last year, and despite the fact
that the production is entirely wordless, there is a palpable poetry
to Translunar Paradise. Both actors give
remarkable physical performances. Their switches from old to young
and back again are flawless and Mann and Pugh's characterisations of
individuals old enough to be their grandparents are beautifully
downside to working with masks, however, is the distancing effect
they create. William and Rose's everyman story is a moving one, but
it is really only when the actors are playing the younger characters
– when we can see their faces – that the show is truly
Heron's haunting accordion and vocal accompaniment – at its
jauntier moments giving a definite Amelie feel to
the work – ties the show together. Heron shines during the
unhurried scene and costume changes in particular:
simultaneously playing and magicking objects in and out of the
playing space, even assisting Mann and Pugh with their masks on
occasion, she is absolutely integral to the drama.
Paradise may not be ambitious in narrative terms – this is, after all, just the story of a man dealing with a bereavement – but it's
stunningly executed and Theatre Ad Infinitum have created a piece of
theatre that has real heart.