Translunar Paradise

Theatre Ad Infinitum
Barbican Pit

Translunar Paradise

Theatre Ad Infinitum’s performance is a monograph on loss; a detailed exploration of an old man coming to terms with the death of his wife. At the meeting point between reality and abstraction, Translunar Paradise rests in the possibility of memory as a space for transgression. In the increasingly monotonous life of a lonely old man lie the endless possibilities of re-experiencing the past.

We watch George Mann and Deborah Pugh re-enact memories whilst fighting to let go—this binary presents itself as the dramatic conflict of the show, underlining every moment. Given the sparsity of the images—the performers only use two chairs and a table to build their spaces, using gesture and movement to recreate the rest—the performance shifts in tone as time passes; at times, romantic in its contemplation of longing, at others fierce in its dissection of a relationship between two people.

The piece rests on three main elements that in themselves are characters of the story: music, mask and mime. Trained at the Lecoq School in Paris, Pugh and Mann have an ease to create fluid, expressive movement located in the most minute of gestures, particularly in the domestic setting of the piece. There is a care and precision with which they bring their characters to life that is infectious, particularly as they work with such different energies—Pugh is the vivid young woman whilst Mann a pensive and vulnerable man. They shift the rhythms of the performance from the ticking beat of the clock that dominates the old man’s daily life to the vibrancy of an encounter from the past. The static quality of the mask, representing the characters in old age, is set in stark contrast to the fluidity of the movement. The live music, performed by Kim Heron with an accordion, intervenes subtly to underline visual metaphors or break up sequences.

There is a dramaturgical interest in the piece to explore the meeting point between the specificity of masks and that of gesture, and this is manifested in the stylistic choice of fragmented images—scenes, particularly memories which are re-enacted, are presented as a series of images as opposed to linear narratives, which reinforces their essence as fragments of life rather than the continuity of the present. This makes for powerful, lyrical scenes that are interested in placing us in the midst of an emotion as opposed to a story which is why, at times, the piece feels lengthy.

Translunar Paradise at times falls into the romanticism of its own metaphor, yet the care with which it approaches its subject matter means every scene is highly expressive and explorative at the same time. It’s a piece that remains orthodox towards its medium, interested in the development of a highly-precise and evocative stage language, and it tells a story through timeless construct of love, imagination and the beauty of an encounter. For that reason, it feels at times dated, but it also holds a plausible universality and a unique identity.

Reviewer: Diana Damian

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