Review: Perpetual

The Bunker Theatre, London,

I often love going to the theatre and having no clue what I’m about to see, and as I walked in the Bunker on Wednesday to watch Perpetual: a Sonic Opera, I can honestly say that I was excited to see what would become of the Noise-Art, experimental, theatre piece based on the story of Lazarus.

The set was simple, effective, creepy; white sheets strewn around a funeral scene, with earth on the ground and garlands of leaves and flowers hanging from the rafters. Intriguing. As the lights dim and a sharp, bold, intrusive din opens up the scene, the audience wait in anticipation to discover what’s about to happen.

The din lasts for a while. Perhaps a full ten minutes. The rest of the piece is a bit of a blur. There’s movement and watering cans and flower girls with maniacal expressions, pained men one after the other scrunching and churning, but all quite slowly. Every movement feels like has been well thought out and a definite decision has been made, but I wasn’t sure whether they were the right decisions.

In fairness it felt more like an art installation than a theatre piece, and were it being performed in a room at the Tate Modern or at some pop up theatre space in Covent Garden, I would most certainly have enjoyed watching parts of the more animated sequences unfold. The acting was intriguing and in some ways moving; with the Flower Girl (Si Taylor) skipping and prancing, tending the garden with equal measure of sweetness and venom, we’re never sure whether she is there to help or hinder both a gaunt, dead-behind-the-eyes Lazarus (Tim Harris) and the Dying Man (Taylor Ayling), who both wretch and reach, certainly provoking an emotional response from the audience. The harrowing underscore, composed by James Shearman, makes the viewer uncomfortable and uneasy, which is clearly the point and there are moments, where you can completely understand what Director James Shearman is conveying – and those moments are conveyed beautifully.

The problem really is that there doesn’t seem to be a real conclusion, or indeed a narrative – just one long introduction, and though I understand that sometimes narrative doesn’t have to be conventional, I still feel that any theatre piece – experimental, performance art, sonic opera, noise art piece or no – should have some semblance of the traditional beginning, middle and end. When you think you know what’s going on, you suddenly realise you don’t and then it’s never truly explained, which leaves the audience feeling somewhat empty.

Yes. I often love going to the theatre and having no clue what I’m about to see. I do however prefer to walk out knowing what I’ve just seen. Unfortunately I still feel a bit left in the dark.

On at The Bunker Theatre, London until July 1st.  Book Now.

© Harvey Rose 2017



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