Writer: George Mann
Director: George Mann
Reviewer: Joan Phillips
More theatre at its best at the Factory Theatre, Bristol, with Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Translunar Paradise. Just three people on stage and not a word is spoken in this short, simply staged, moving story. But the effect on the audience is as powerful as a full-length play or cinema ‘weepy’.
Written and directed by Theatre Ad Infinitum’s George Mann Translunar Paradise tells the story of an aged William, recently widowed, coming to terms with life after the death of his wife. The scenes are truly heartbreaking. William’s loneliness and difficulty to adapt after his wife’s death, still setting out two cups of tea in the morning, leaves a lump in the throat, stretching the same hearts strings as the opening scenes of Pixar’s Up.
As he struggles to come to terms with his loss, he goes through the suitcase his wife took to the hospital in which she packed memories of their lives together. As he picks out momentos of their married life, the audience shares the couple’s moments of love and despair; happiness and loss; grief and anger; from the young couple there were when they met, to the moment he accompanied her to the hospital where she died.
All this is well-trodden ground on stage or on screen, but it is the mimed and perfectly performed staging of this production that makes it so compelling. Alone after his wife’s death, there is no one to fill the void in William’s life, so the audience joins him in his silence, reflecting on his memories, switching from good to bad.
Performed on stage by George Mann and Deb Pugh the fluid and delicately balanced, rhythmic movements of the performers are hypnotic. Almost balletic, the two switch seamlessly from old to young. Holding, or removing, wrinkled, hand-held masks to their faces, and at the same time instantly changing their postures and style of movement, each is in a moment either part of a young, flirtatious, or hunched, arthritic couple. Supported on stage by Sophie Crawford, providing a haunting musical accompaniment with only accordion or voice, the stripped-back nature of this production’s staging always takes us to the movements of these immensely talented performers which are totally compelling. As each performer draws the mask of age towards them, it almost appears to suck on to their face at the last moment as if to remind us of the inevitability of age and that it might draw in too soon. The clever coincidental accompanied sigh of inhaling or exhaling from the performers or the air pressed through an unplayed accordion almost accelerates that feeling of time passing too quickly from our grasp.
George Mann once again shows the use of body alone can be enough to tell a story, just as he did in Light or the choreographed moments of Pink Mist. They say smell can add to the magnitude of our memory so it is in this production that silence and the compelling movements of this mimed performance make this production so powerfully and hauntingly moving.
Runs until 8 July 2017 | Image: Contributed