Edinburgh International Conference Centre
Opened 12 August, 1997

Forkbeard Fantasy will arrive on the Edinburgh Fringe next week with The Fall Of The House Of Usherettes only to find their thunder already stolen by a Catalan company in the International Festival. In their current show, Blinded By Love (Cegada De Amor), Barcelona's La Cubana company venture into the Forkbeards' especial territory, that of blending live action more or less seamlessly with film. If Tim and Chris Britton had a respectable production budget, a respected director to shoot their screen footage and an eccentric mainstream sensibility rather than unashamed cultish weirdness, the result would be something like Blinded By Love. Three-D glasses are provided, but it soon becomes clear that the special effects go far beyond such toys.

Members of the company usher the audience through a vestibule exhibition of Catalan culture to their seats in the Conference Centre auditorium; a curtain-raising duet, as kitschy as every number in the show, is sung; the film rolls. A bright, jolly (and inevitably musical) party scene is interrupted when the ageing child star storms off the set; the cameras then dwell on behind-the-scenes crises. During these twenty minutes or so, shouts occasionally emerge from performers planted in the audience: a punter outraged that the film is in Catalan rather than Castilian, another who appparently keeps getting groped by her neighbours, a couple of yobs. Eventually the characters on the screen stop their argument and peer down into the auditorium, demanding to know what is going on.

At this point the show becomes a live-action cousin of Woody Allen's The Purple Rose Of Cairo: characters quite literally burst through the screen onto the stage. The timing and integration of these moments is astounding; figures onstage and in the auditorium argue (in English) with their surtitled fellows on the screen. The traffic becomes two-way, as the molested woman from the audience takes refuge in the film and a psychiatrist is invited from the stalls onto the screen to try to persuade the tearful Estrellita to return to the film set. By the end, even a couple of dozen audience extras have been subsumed onto celluloid; at an earlier point, the film appears to melt in the projector gate, suddenly spewing characters onto the stage.

What may at first seem simply clever, playful gimmickry however phenomenally precisely it is achieved gradually seduces the audience until, at the end, we even applaud the movie's production crew as they take their bows on film only (and yes, everyone stayed for the final credits). The entire design, both two- and three-dimensional, is comically garish, Joan Vives' songs are persistently, laughably jolly, and film director Fernando Colomo brings the same wry tone to his footage even of supposed studio crises as was evident in his recent British release El Efecto Mariposa (The Butterfly Effect). One hopes heartily that the cinéastes currently just around the corner at the Film Festival can be enticed along to luxuriate in this bizarre hybrid.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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