Alice Bell / Daniel Hit By A Train / The Festival
The Pit, London EC2
Opened 6 March, 2010
**** / *** / ***

Over the next weeks, Lone Twin’s tour of their ensemble work will show their latest piece The Festival, accompanied at some venues by its predecessors Alice Bell and Daniel Hit By A Train, as on its opening stint at the Pit, where the three shows can be seen on successive evenings or together over the course of a (too-spaced-out) Saturday. To me, though, these do not seem to be works which gain synergetically by being seen in each other’s company. Rather, the delicacy and near-whimsy of the company style comes through familiarity to pay diminishing returns.
Alice Bell is the strongest piece not simply because it is presented first. Its tale of a girl lost for dead in a civil war but in fact rescued by and living with one of the “others” combines narrative impetus with an emotionally weighty subject, one or the other of which is lacking from the subsequent pieces. In this first work, when the company shift from stylised dramatic presentation to more abstract movement sequences or deceptively jaunty-sounding songs accompanied by one or more ukuleles, the discontinuity between form and content carries an impact of its own.
Daniel Hit By A Train ought to work similarly, being an impressionistic rendering of the stories of the 53 people commemorated in G.F. Watts’ memorial to ordinary people’s “heroic self-sacrifice” in Postman’s Park in the City of London. (A 54th plaque has been added since the piece was created.) In the event, though, there are far fewer than 53 stories to tell, and attempts to create a cumulative ritual power through multiple portrayals of death-by-fire or -in-deep-water episodes simply grows repetitious. New piece The Festival operates on an individual, domestic scale, showing one woman’s relationship with an annual event and in particular the year between her first meeting with a man and their next rendezvous. It is touching, but the material is not hefty enough to keep the performance approach anchored and so compel our attention.
There are consistent delights: the eccentric movements of Nina Tecklenburg, the instinctive appeal (what one might call “the Hayley Carmichael factor”) of Molly Haslund, and the incongruous deadpan antics of Guy Dartnell even as he impersonates both Bono and Bruce Springsteen in The Festival. But the fragile atmosphere of any single 70-minute piece cannot be sustained over a seven-hour day.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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