Watchable, whimsical story-telling

13 March 2008

Dulcitius, ADC Theatre, 5-8 March, 23:00

Reviewer Bethany Sims

Three Stars

It felt a little too late in the day to be handed a reading list as I entered the ADC auditorium for this week’s lateshow Dulcitius. This one however was printed on red paper so all is forgiven; a short weird combination of Ovid, The Daily Telegraph, Milton and Emily Dickenson. Nonetheless, I began to expect a learned display, beyond the reach of my slightly weary mind. The cluttered set, the stage filled with antiquitarian curiosities which made it look like the most exciting of attics promised a busy circus of an evening, if they could make use of all the jumble, the ladders, maps, cloths and boxes.

Dulcitius does not have the clearest of stories, mainly because fantastical things happen- people are burnt alive, have clothes that won’t rip, mistake flour sacks for desirable women. But what makes Dulcitius watchable, despite being a string of strange episodes that hang fairly loosely together, is its whimsical nature. The show is affectionately handcrafted and makeshift. It is a true ensemble piece, with all the clunks and quick changes done centre-stage and shared out between the cast. In the first few moments on stage the five actors broke into mime and admittedly, I gritted my teeth and furrowed by brow, unfairly sceptical that mime was a good move. So much imaginative investment went into that mime that it became storytelling and coaxed us into believing a red strip of fabric was bow and arrow, blood and fire. Well mimed.

Léon Digard, who played Dulcitius himself dealt admirably with an embarrassing sexual encounter among sacks of flour and saucepan lids, unabashed in his performance of frankly ridiculous stage directions, an expressive face, making him especially gruesome and lecherous during his run-in with the pots and pans. Digard however was a little camp, and at moments, in a tunic with a goblet of wine in one hand, he bore a fleeting resemblance to Kenneth Williams. Grace Rigg and Camilla Green, on the other hand, were compelling. With impressive diversity, they took on challenging roles convincingly- Rigg made a particularly good leper and Camilla an over-sexed, would-be rapist soldier. The audience was spoken to with animated faces, bodies, and then words, borrowed from the eclectic list of authors cited in the programme. And yet this was a late night lesson in living and playing out stories, not literature.