Saturday, 26 May 2007

Kneehigh Theatre

I went to see the Kneehigh Theatre platform (talk) at the National yesterday - Emma Rice and Tom Morris were interviewed by critic Mark Shenton about their co-adaptation of A Matter of Life and Death, which Emma Rice also directed.

The last talk they did was when Tom Morris interviewed Emma Rice about Tristan & Yseult, a Kneehigh show which was a huge success. These platforms attract a mixture of theatre students and old people. As we filed out of the auditorium afterwards, the place was buzzing - although the older people were mostly talking about the daring Tom Morris had shown by wearing a pair of shorts which revealed his very white legs.

Last night's talk was a more subdued affair. Tom Morris was fully clothed and both he and Emma Rice seemed conscious of the less than enthusiastic reviews for the show, which have provoked a bit of a theatrical spat. (You can read about the spat here on West End Whingers blog and here on David Eldridge's blog)

If you haven't seen a Kneehigh show before, it's worth going to see A Matter of Life and Death. I disagree with the line of reasoning that says that if you're unfamiliar with physical theatre then you won't 'get' Kneehigh. I'd put it the other way - that if you've seen all their work, then you begin to see some of the same tricks crop up. An old boyfriend of mine used to say to me, rather pointedly, 'familiarity breeds contempt'. I wouldn't put it nearly so harshly in this case although I must admit I have never quite recaptured that rush of joy in watching subsequent shows that I felt when I saw Tristan & Yseult.

Even so, I'm always knocked out by the inventiveness and enthusiasm of their productions. I'll be going to see whatever they do next.


Interval Drinks said...

I agree - the first Kneehigh production I saw blew me away - it left my giddy and full of excitement about the possibilities of theatre. But, in a Matter of Life And Death, I just don't think their techniques sit well with the material - the heart of the story seemed to have been lost.

I gather there are alternative endings to this production - which did you see?

Helen Smith said...

Hello Natasha
- he lived in the one I saw. I had seen a review that mentioned it has two endings - otherwise the fact that it's decided 'live' would have passed me by. I think they need to tell people before they go in. They said in the talk at the National that they had experimented during previews with how to get it across - one night they asked a member of the audience to call whether it was heads or tails (but the person cheated because he wanted the pilot to live - leaving the actors in a difficult position!) and also with asking the audience to vote. If asked to vote, the audience would know for sure it was 'live' but maybe a vote would have other problems for the cast - a bit like the old joke about the actress playing Anne Frank who was so awful that a member of the audience shouted 'she's in the attic'!

Helen Smith said...

...not that I'm saying this production was awful. I'm a big fan of Kneeehigh. I think actually a vote would go the other way - the audience would always vote for him to live.

Mike M said...

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