ANDREW LATIMER reviews SALVO for TVBOMB – 23.2.14
3 stars ★★★☆☆
More frequently, there is a need to turn away from the taste of the American hit-man movie. All sequels all the time. It’s a shame that début directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza can’t capitalise on this, with a fascinatingly Melvillesque – but potholed – story of a Mafioso bodyguard in Sicily. The titular assassin (Saleh Bakri) survives an attack from another gangster family and sets out to seek revenge, but in the process falls in love with his assailant’s blind sister, Rita (Sara Serraiocco). He kidnaps and secludes her, much to the fury of the boss man, and is forced to ultimately decide who is more important.
There is much to be studied in the cinematography and direction of Salvo: third-person, over the shoulder shooting gives menace, tension and mood to the whole film. We experience it almost as if we were playing it as a video game. And yet, because of the huge gaps in the story, the fact that the characters don’t gel and the questionable honesty of the performances to say the least, it ultimately becomes a dull and lifeless thriller. The contrast of beautiful landscapes, from the scrambling Italian side-streets to the rhythmic ocean waves, mirror that of Salvo’s paradoxical life as a desperado and gentle romantic, but there is little more to be enjoyed here.
ANDREW LATIMER reviews GO! for TVBOMB – 13.2.14
4 stars ★★★★☆
One overarching theme at this year’s Manipulate festival has been ritual. From the religious worship of Greek Gods in Bestiaires, the nomadic daily habits in It’s Such a Beautiful Day, through to our self-destructive will to engage in warfare as told in Grit, the routines that define and devastate our lives are not told as precisely as they are in Polina Borisova’s Go!. This entrancingly poignant account of vanishing memories is a tonally exceptional journey through one elderly woman’s recollections of former loves.
With exquisite technical skill, Borisova uses a roll of tape to map out the figures in her mind. Against a black curtain backdrop, she sketches out an old flame, the cat that she still puts food out for and the doorway which may lead to even deeper alcoves of her psyche. There’s a sadness to these losses, as she glances back on life rather than ahead, yet so much dry humour has been buried within the piece you can’t help but feel uplifted. The moment of clarity upon noticing the outline of a cat in the window provides as much joy as it does empathy. Fragile, powerful and meticulous, this is earnest visual theatre which inspires one to consider life and its encounters with greater fondness than we do regret.
ANDREW LATIMER reviews HÔTEL DE RIVE for TVBOMB – 7.2.14
2 stars ★★☆☆☆
On the more literary side of visual theatre comes Hôtel de Rive, a tailspin into the headspace of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti – known largely for his crucial role in the development of Surrealism. Manipulate welcomes back Figurentheater Tübingen to present interpretations of four short texts by Giacometti, as inquisitive as they are impassable. This hour-long piece is far from glib, with much probable reward for anyone who is informed and learned on Giacometti’s existential angst. He walled himself off at the titular hotel in Geneva in an attempt to reignite his creative fire and actor Patrick Michaelis journeys from Giacometti’s childhood through to his artistic crisis.
Using a mixture of live filming, alphorn and trumpet music, and delicate material puppetry, we are dragged into the freewheeling life of a frustrated but deeply poetic mind. By no means accidentally, the puppets are familiar of Giacometti’s most famous work – L’Homme qui marche I – which sold at auction (including premium) for £65m. Arched, spindly characters float, hover and dance around Michaelis, who retells these peculiar stories in multilingual verse. The dim and dusty mood is like Beckett meets Bukowski: hallucinatory, darkly comic and drawn-out. This kind of enigmatic theatre may appeal to the steadfast avant-garde enthusiast, but is broadly unengaging and remote, and in no way refreshes or innovates multidisciplinary theatre.
ANDREW LATIMER reviews GRIT for TVBOMB – 7.2.14
3 stars ★★★☆☆
Perhaps the ugliest notion of war today is its apparent omnipresence. It’s actually hard to even pinpoint and define, as cybercrime and economic sanctions play equal roles in continuing imperialism and escalating modern conflicts. It’s also why visual theatre – an art-form with the capacity to immerse like few others – is so successful at mirroring back to us the horrors of combat. Tortoise in a Nutshell have revived their 2012 Fringe hit to remind us of the darker side of human nature, as Amy rummages through the possessions of her late father: a wartime photojournalist.
Told through stunning object theatre, shadow puppetry and projection, Grit explores extreme childhood encounters with war: from playful games of cops-and-robbers to devastating invasion. As is expected with this talented company, the technical wizardry on display is near-flawless but the story seems to suffer in the same way that last year’s Feral did. There is only one sequence of real magic: a young boy plays in a sandpit as the objects around him turn from buckets and spades to guns and bombs. This frightening vision of war; pervasive, unforgiving, ageless, is the greatest achievement in an otherwise intelligent piece of visual theatre. However, if Grit focussed more on the journey of its protagonists, as in The Last Miner, the political outcome would carry even more clout.
ANDREW LATIMER reviews SCRAPYARD / UNHINGED for TVBOMB – 6.2.14
3 stars ★★★☆☆
The challenges facing theatre-makers is a topic that deserves greater discussion at a time of immobilising freelance costs and a lack of local rehearsal spaces. Bryony Kimmings reignited the debate at the end of 2013 and Devoted & Disgruntled continued it, but Scrapyard is an exciting project currently underway in Scotland that seeks to truly problem-solve. It unites performers with practitioners and acts as a sandbox for artists to scratch new ideas.
Participants were split into four groups and each received a masterclass from a guest artist, tasked with developing work over two weeks based on the stimulus: ‘Unhinged’. Sadly, it doesn’t come together on this occasion, with a bizarre collection of wildly self-indulgent and impenetrable pieces on topics ranging from simple object theatre to bourgeois primness. Caitlin Skinner’s Bert and Flo is the only stand-out: a surreal yet jubilant tale of suburban bliss as a resident falls in love with a parrot sock puppet, signalling that ‘story’ is always the most important ingredient. Better still, the evening is fully rescued by Paper Doll Militia’s hypnotising display of aerial acrobatics – the companion piece to Scrapyard’s presented work. Spinning and hooking their way through reams of white cloth, the female duo exhibit immense technical prowess and strength in what is a mesmerising ten-minute demonstration of visual theatre.