SPIRIT
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court, London SW1
Opened 15 March, 2001

The latest piece from Improbable Theatre lets you see why they're consistently worth watching; sadly, though, this time you don't feel it.

The team of Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch have been responsible for theatrical marvels ranging from the junk opera Shockheaded Peter to Lifegame, a play constructed entirely around an onstage interview with a member of the audience. Spirit contains all the delight in storytelling that we expect from them, and all the inventive staging: everything takes place on a steep ramp with a dozen or so trapdoors cut into it, through which puppets, huge bedsheets, cardboard cut-out buildings and the three performers themselves appear and disappear.

But for once it feels as if they are trying too hard. The story and the theme one of three brothers goes off to war and dies (or does he?), while the actors bicker about how to tell the tale feel calculated. It feels significant that they are working for the first time with a co-director who has a doctorate in "Process Work" (whatever that is) in the area of personal conflict. Improbable glory in the power of the imagination; this time, though, they are not so much celebrating it as giving instruction in it.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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