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Constructive Interference presents

EULER’S CIRCLES

 

Writer: Peter Norgate

 

Director: Lavinia Hollands

 

Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

 

17 – 28 August 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A review by Jafar Iqbal for EXTRA! EXTRA!

When I think of what excites me and makes me proud about my association with the theatre, the idea that it speaks to, and can be spoken by people from all walks of life definitely ranks high up there. As we’ve seen through history, theatre has opened the doors for anyone to come along and create a piece of excellent, eye-opening performance. Whether it was the political satire of Irish theatre amidst the Troubles; or playwrights like Caryl Churchill strengthening women’s voices, or a new breed of Asian writers rising up to mend the divide created by 9/11, theatre practitioners of all genders, races, religions come together and speak to the world freely. It seems like only theatre truly allows full freedom to the individuals driven enough to use it.

So for me, coming to the Brockley Jack theatre was an extremely momentous occasion. For the first time in my life, I was going to witness a play that not only explored the nature of mental health, but involved people who lived with some sort of condition themselves. For those of you still not aware what I’m talking about, Euler’s Circles is the play in question. It’s interesting to note first-up that the three central ingredients of the play – writer, director and lead actor – are collectively the founders of Constructive Interference, created to raise awareness. Writer Peter Norgate lives with a mental health condition himself, which made the production a very personal project.

The play revolves around Rowena (Dominique Gerrard), who is diagnosed with Bells Palsy, a facial disfigurement. After her condition leads to a traumatic experience, she shuts herself in the house, spending all day doing jigsaw puzzles and trading on eBay. The only person in her life is Geoff (Edward Cartwright), the delivery man who comes three times a week, until Laura (Claire Dixon) arrives. Diagnosed herself with Asperger’s, Laura inserts herself into Rowena’s life, first because she blames herself for Rowena’s mugging, and then because she is drawn to the fact that they are both different. After initial conflict, the two get closer, and both are forced to question their perceptions of the conditions they are living with.

While the play had a very interesting and thought-provoking concept, I felt that it failed somewhat to deliver in execution. Though well written at some points, it seemed to drag and lose its grip on the audience at others. Particularly as the play entered its second half, the story seemed to move along too quickly and the audience was left to fill in the gaps themselves. Characters seemed to grow closer or fall apart between scenes, without proper explanation, and this tended to grate.

But where the script seemed to falter at points, the strength of the performances was never in doubt. Present in every single scene, Dominique Gerrard is very good, bringing out the insecurities and frustrations of Rowena so well. More than her dialogue delivery, it is her body language and facial expressions that really bring out the nuances of the character. Cartwright is also good as Geoff. However, I felt that the character was underdeveloped and left somewhat lost in the shuffle as the play went on. The true stand-out actor in the play, though, is Claire Dixon. As Laura, she makes you believe you are watching someone with Asperger’s. Her performance is fantastic from start to finish, and invokes an emotional attachment with the audience.

Technically, the play works fine too. Director Lavinia Hollands does a great job with the set and uses the space available to her very well. Though there is not much use of lighting and sound throughout the production, what there is, is done well and can’t be faulted. Holland’s decision to start the play with a cluttered stage, only to end it with an empty one, is a nice little analogy on the lives of the characters and seems like a fitting ending. So though the ending left a little to be desired for me, Laura sitting alone on an empty stage talking to herself definitely struck a chord.

Although excellent performances and strong direction had potential,, I believe an underdeveloped script let this production down at times and left one wanting a lot more. What needs to come out of this, however, is the fact that a new set of floodgates have opened, and I hope we can see more exposure for individuals and companies tackling the nature of mental health.

Euler’s Circles definitely has a fantastic concept, and the theatre company should be applauded for their efforts. While this production may not have truly hit the mark, it’s a good benchmark for whatever will come next.

 

Tuesday – Saturday at 8pm (except Monday 23rd August)

Tickets: £12 full price / £10 with concession

Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, Brockley, London SE4 2DH

http://www.brockleyjack.co.uk

Box Office: 0844 847 2454 (no booking fee)

Online Booking: http://www.ticketweb.co.uk

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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