BE FESTIVAL: Solitudes – Birmingham REP

Kulunka Teatro (Spain)

Reviewer: John Kennedy

Kulunka was awarded Audience Prize at BE Festival 2011. Again, it sets the bar incredibly high with its mask/mime evocative narrative of a lonely, house-bound elderly couple. Their tick-tock Westminster chiming wall clock marks out the anticipated moment: it’s time to play cards. The ritual of the green baize smoothed out upon the table, the anticipatory deft dealing and bluff. It’s all they have but for a feckless son and his, mobile-phone – prosthesis for an empty heart – partner.

So close to cloy sentimentality Kulunka avoids the obvious heart-string tugging tropes. The masks remain fixed, the body language and nuanced expressionism speak in volumes of subtly shared empathy. It is witty and deliciously subversive – the old man protagonist phones for a visiting tart-with-a-heart. His too busy diffident son is outraged.

among many other qualities the universal language of masked mime is its accepted licence to allow characters to elicit recognition beyond the ‘fourth wall’. A gesture of perplexity, a shrug of resignation – there’s a near infinite pallet of nuance. This is a medium that has lasting resonance harking back to Ancient Greece, Japanese Noh and heaven forbid even Spitting Images. Embracing and fundamentally humane.

Reviewed on 6 July 2017 | Image: Contributed

Taking place between July 4 – 8, BE FESTIVAL is a cross-pollinating and boundary-smashing explosion of theatre, dance, circus, comedy, music, visual and performing arts giving audiences the opportunity to explore and enjoy the backstage areas of The REP where the Construction Workshop acts as a Hub to the festival.

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