Told By the Wind
Created by Kaite O'Reilly, Jo Shapland and Phillip Zarrilli
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, and touring
I'll be honest. I'm a fan of traditional, narrative theatre. I like being part of a passive audience, soaking up a damn fine plot, executed by fully developed characters. I enjoy the security of the alternative reality they create.
I'm not an advocate of 'Death to the Author'; I'm generally not drawn to post-modern theatre.
So sitting in Chapter's beautifully re-vamped foyer, waiting to be let in to Told By The Wind at 8pm on the dot, I braced myself as I read that I was to be treated to an evening of "post-dramatic aesthetics String Theory and Japanese Theatre of Quietude". Frankly, I wasn't at all sure I wanted to be compelled to find my own meaning and significance in "embodied silences, splintered interactions and slowed-down motion".
In fact Told By the Wind is easily the most hypnotic piece theatre I have experienced. The extraordinary poise and perfection in the movement, texting and staging of this piece makes for a beautifully contemplative sixty minutes.
Kaite O'Reilly's hauntingly poetic snatches of text ripple through the piece, adding texture without informing plot or character. The slow, silent grace of this play without dialogue, this ballet without music, makes the experience of sitting in the audience a wholly introspective one. At times it feels more like a meditation than theatre.
Most affecting for me was a scene in which the two disparate characters performed by co-creators, Zarrilli and Shapland, separated by time and space, sit at opposite corners of the stage, their backs turned to each other. They engage in an unspoken dialogue, mouthed and entirely inaudible. Stripped of all the usual cues of sight or sound, their conversation is none the less perfectly syncopated and entirely convincing as the splintered recollection of an interaction now lost to time.
It is this precision in the crafting and the execution of this piece which makes it so compelling. It's undoubtedly a rigorous piece of theatre to sit through but it's all the more affecting for that.
"Told By The Wind" runs at Chapter until February 6th, and tours to Tanzfabrik, Berlin and Phoenix Arts Centre, Exeter.
Reviewer: Allison Vale