Stories fall short of emotional entanglement

16 February 2008

Skates, ADC Theatre, 13-16 February, 23:00

3 1/2 stars

Reviewer Annabel Banks

Stories – the true reason we go to the theatre. It’s easy to make a big noise about political motivations and supporting the arts but we know the truth; we really go to see a story, to live inside it as much as a good actor can allow, to learn a little more about the world and the possibilities of the people that inhabit it.

Skates delivered on this bargain. The stories heaped, tangled and toppled, beginning small – skates and how to make them – and continuing to trace an escape, hardship, relationships sundered but remembered, and a sense of stubbornness and tenacity that really came through. This ensemble piece allowed every member to flex and roll across the stage in a way that was a delight to behold. The company had worked hard under Cat Gerrard’s direction, all adding to the creation of the script, and their complete understanding and ownership of every moment and movement was obvious.

The presence of three violinists onstage gave rise to the sensation of watching a dance as props and bodies were used to create scenery, vehicles, radios, churches, – all were drawn using the confident manipulation of arms and legs, clothes-rails, two umbrellas, and numerous other bits and bobs. The scene changes were fluid and well rehearsed, giving rise to accomplished touches that would have pleased an audience at a big professional theatre.

However, I am still deciding whether this choreography was the cause of my lack of emotional response to what I was watching. My engagement with the stories was constantly interrupted by the whirlwind in front of me, and I wonder if misplaced sincerity was stifling the trust that should be invested in the audience. I understood the points about memory and loss, so I didn’t need a five-minute recipe scene to drag me earnestly by the arm in that direction, ( in fact, I resented it a little) – and it kept tugging me away from the total immersion that I was craving by this point. But then again I’m also a firm believer that overstatement is better than unguided confusion, so they just needed to back it off a little. Hats off to the boys behind the scenes – technical presentation was faultless, successfully adding to the construction of the world on the stage.

Overall the piece was innovative and confident, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.