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The Dreadful Hours

Chris Fittock
Tmesis Theatre
Tristan Bates Theatre
(2010)

Publicity photo

Created by performers Yorgos Karamalegos and Elinor Randle with director Javier Marzan and Chris Fittock, this is the first time this company have worked with a writer, combining their brand of physical theatre with segments of dialogue.

It takes two people - we first see them dressing to go out for the evening alternately lit on opposite sides of the stage - and gives us the peaks and troughs of their relationship. From meeting in a bar and being instantly attracted to a disco sequence of initial passion, they are suddenly a settled couple: she adjusting his tie, he fastening her pearls. Things then settle into the banality of life, interspersing an endless meal in a restaurant with fighting their way against the gales of life or scaling precarious heights of endearment or mutually considerate sex.

There are some extremely accomplished physical moments as, for instance, when ready to go out at the beginning, they both of them shrink back into themselves with nervousness or, when standing on top of a table, they make you feel they are on a high precipice. However, going by the evidence of promotional videos (this is the first time I have seen the company perform); this piece seems less obviously inventive than some of their previous work.

The dialogue sometimes uses repetition in much the same way as a choreographer will repeat a dance phrase and, though it captures the irritation that develops in a relationship, as in the woman continually correcting the man's errors in idiomatic English, it is all too successfully banal. Some of the action, like the woman's pouring of wine for herself, her table manners or the man's cleaning fetish, emphasise the way annoying behaviour become exaggerated when you are continually exposed to it and I presume a sequence with an apple is about shifting responsibility and guilt to the male instead of the female of Genesis.

Dialogue is rather awkward and sometimes incomprehensible, but that may be intentional. It certainly lacks the fluency of the music which powers the show and which is beautifully matched to the action. However, I couldn't help feeling that the performers thought they were conveying something of much greater import than what they got through to me. It is a show that is dangerously titled - even though it runs only 60 minutes. It could well seem pointless if less well performed but rethought with rigour and pushed further it has the possibility of turning into something quite brilliant.

At Tristan Bates theatre until 15th May 2010

Reviewer: Howard Loxton