DramaPuppetryReviewSouth West

The Marked –  Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol

Deviser: Theatre Témoin

Director: Ailin Conant

Reviewer : Joan Phillips

Jack is haunted by demons from his childhood. Now a young adult, his nightmares have followed him into the decrepit parts of our towns where he makes a home for himself with other struggling homeless.

The Marked is set in the parts of towns most of us never need or want to see. Staged at the back of buildings where the wheelie bins and rubbish carts butt up against each other, and the bin bags are tossed into high mounds, Zahra Mansouri’s excellent set does not disguise the filthy desperation of Jack’s situation as he makes himself a home among the pallets and corrugated iron fences, picking through the bins to find food.

Jack is plagued by memories and horrors of his childhood. Devised and developed by Theatre Témoin, alongside community and academic consultants, the link between Jack’s homelessness and his mother’s alcohol abuse is vividly established very early in the play.

Creative use of masks and full sized puppets allow this small three man cast to switch from flashbacks of Jack’s childhood to re-enactments of the worst of his nightmares. Grafted Cede Theatre produced the very effective, grotesque, ghoulish masks that follow Jack into his sleep and chase him through his dreams. Peter Morton’s child-sized puppet, managed by the cast, breaks our hearts as we watch the younger Jack struggle with the violent consequences of his mother’s addictions.

This show is ingenious creatively which makes it very watchable. In the dark corners bin bags come to life, swallow you up, hide threatening demons and terrifying grim reaper characters lurk, shadowing the living. The oppressive atmosphere of people at the edge of society on the brink of breakdown is ominously well established.

However, The Marked does let itself down in other areas. The appearance of two human-sized pigeons is ridiculous and seems to be there to explain something that is blindingly obvious already. The playing out of scenes from dreams and nightmares uses familiar theatrical devices and gets needlessly repetitive.

More disappointing is that this production seems to have very little new to say or ways to say it. The problems of addictions and substance abuse are well-trodden ground and the issues of childhood trauma and the effects on adulthood are already well established. Despite the promising creativity of the set, masks and puppets and the physicality of the cast on stage, the repetitiveness and the familiarity of the production leaves you wanting something more original. Sadly, despite the worthy message, one does come away with the feeling you have seen it before.

Runs until 13 May 2017 | Image: Lidia Crisafulli

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Watchable but confused

The Reviews Hub - South West

The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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