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And The Horse You Rode In On (Tour - Leeds)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Told by an Idiot’s And The Horse You Rode In On is a feast of semiotics. Paul Hunter’s directorial artistry sees tropes and cultural references elegantly blended into an unsettling visceral pastiche that is both comic and tragic.

Multiple interwoven narratives transport us through the ages; from the court of King Louis XIV where a troupe of tumblers are held to ransom; through the 1930s where a message hidden in Stevie’s birthday cake leads to a secret tryst, underground activism and a mysterious ticking suitcase; to the 1970s where a radical student announces her intention to publicly set fire to her dog. All of this illustrates how political violence, the thematic through-line, has always been present in society.

Set within the banal world of Grace Brothers department store from the sitcom Are You Being Served? complete with Mr Humphries, Mrs Slocombe and Captain Peacock, the juxtaposition of extreme violence is potent as it nestles into an innocent day-to-day landscape.

One particularly satisfying set of devices, which underpin the hyper-real aesthetic and ensures that the audience remains sufficiently objective, are the transitions between German and English language, on stage dialogue and voice over, live speech and surtitles. Rather than confuse the audience, the shifts and changes in these conventions are seamless, stimulating and entertaining, I do not tire of them.

Collectively Annie Fitzmaurice, Bettrys Jones, Martin Hyder, Jane Guernier and Nick Haverson are a powerful, energised and versatile ensemble. Sophia Clist’s surreal set design is rich and lush and utilised to full effect.


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