Wednesday 5th December 2007
To be honest, I would have been looking forward to this had they chosen any two of the five performers who came in July. It’s a rare privilege to be able to watch a work develop and grow, and to feel that you’ve had some input into the way it’s been considered. It’s also good as a reviewer to feel that you’re not writing anything the performers haven’t heard already at the feedback sessions after the show!
With a more powerfully physical performance, Joanna Brown’s We Will Mend On The Highways had gained a little of the focus it needed this time around, but seemed to have done so at the expense of its connection with the audience.
Her awestruck, breathless stage persona seemed to have been replaced by a naturalism that gave the whole thing the feeling of a rather flat lecture. It was a shame to hear her warm, poetic script being delivered in this way when with a little more consideration of that dramatic persona the show would have pulled us into its world much more forcefully. It’s still a brave piece, though, and I look forward to seeing it again in London in the near future.
Having been scrupulously even handed in my opening paragraph, I’m forced to admit that I would have been surprised and disappointed had we not seen the return of 10 Ways to Die Onstage. A hit last time, there have been few major changes. However, with a show that takes audience and performer this close to the edge of what’s emotionally bearable, it’s hard to know where else it could have gone.
Edward Rapley, under the direction of Steve Ryan, uses his extra time well. It’s now a good few minutes before the amiable, absurdist comedy of the opening plummets into darker places, giving us time to get used to Rapley’s hesitant speech rhythms and uncomfortable half smiles before he really starts using them in anger.
It’s a little more explicit this time round – not sexually, but rather around what the objects on stage represent, and how he uses them. This has defused the show a little by giving it a somewhat didactic feel – a jarring sense of being told ‘important truths’ that instantly raises the contrarian hackles.
That aside, it was still unique, still exquisitely disturbing and still deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.