In casting a pair of performers most recently seen in Volcano Theatre's thetownthatwentmad, director Rebecca Wolman of the Besht Tellers seems to be aiming to lend that company's storytelling approach a harder physical edge in Angels And Demons. The show is a qualified success only; please believe that no physical-theatre pun is intended when I say that it often falls between two stools.
Emma Carter and Simon Thorp's physicality and resourcefulness on a minimally-equipped stage are at times impressive (as three rope ladders are used to depict everything from a forest to a ferryboat to a dungeon), at times too laboured (the old "human furniture" ploy again); the story of Adam's conflict with his first companion Lilith is depicted entirely in wordless movement – largely, one suspects, just because they can. There is a determination that the stories collected here – Jewish and North African tales about, well, angels and demons – should be told in an accessible way, but often this means merely modishly: earthbound angels who speak like supporting characters in Only Fools And Horses, or an ill-advised, rambling attempt to identify modern, quotidian counterparts of these supernatural beings. (Also on the subject of modernisation, it is odd that Lilith's refusal to subordinate herself to Adam is given no ur-feminist spin; surely her punishment in being made to beget a race of demons was for no more than being the first independently-minded woman...)
Theo Travis and Rick Bolton provide versatile and apposite musical accompaniment, primarily though by no means exclusively on guitar and soprano saxophone; Travis's sax squawks to great comic effect to symbolise the lustful thoughts of a would-be saint, suggesting a distinct connection between honking and bonking. The second half of the evening is the stronger, featuring as it does stories in which evil is permitted to brood and ferment rather than being unleashed at a stroke. However, I confess myself unable to follow such detailed correspondences as there may be in the recurring stories of "the Princess of Light", a character who stands for the Shekhinah, or God's presence in the world; their parabolic elements seem more than a trifle arcane. As for the evening as a whole – divine or devilish? To be honest, a little of each.
Written for the Financial Times.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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