A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

inside intelligence presents

 

Teddy and Topsy




Written and Directed by Robert Shaw

 

 

Old Red Lion Theatre


5 April - 23 April 2011

 

This is not so much a play, as a reading of Isadora Duncan's love letters to Edward Gordon Craig, put together by Robert Shaw and interspersed with short but elegantly expressive dance pieces choreographed and performed by Anna-Marie Paraskeva, who is the lodestar of this one-woman show. At one and a half hours without an interval, the letters do become a little soporific as they intone her loneliness in one hotel room after another, but Ms Paraskeva's performance as the legendary mother of modern dance is nothing short of virtuosa. She commands the small triangular stage as if it were the whole of Europe, her face changing like the weather she describes: "the land of snow and ice, I think I discovered the North Pole …. now I'll see you, you, you." She moves seamlessly from reciting the letters to dancing to recorded Chopin in Duncan's trademark Grecian dress, picking up a flowing scarf towards the end, ominous to those who know that her love of such attire killed her when a scarf caught in the wheels of a car and broke her neck. As a fellow female American bohemian on the 1920s European scene remarked of the incident, 'affectations can be dangerous' (Gertrude Stein).

The other great tragedy in Duncan's life was referred to more directly in her letters about the deaths of her two children, the elder being Craig's daughter. Her passionate commitment to freedom of expression in the arts comes across strongly, as does her feeling that she found an artistic soulmate in Craig, although they lead such separate lives; she is largely self-supporting and so inevitably left to yearn for a relationship that is only ever fleetingly consummated. In that sense, the one-sidedness of the correspondence (we only hear one reply from Craig at the end) accurately reflects her isolation, in spite of all her other lovers, both male and female, and the glamorous high society admirers of her exciting innovations in the art of dance.

This show wets the appetite to know more about Duncan's life. She moved to Russia to teach dance to orphans of the October Revolution. Her will was the first of a Soviet citizen to be probated in the U.S. She had to be incredibly strong and self-disciplined, in spite of how needy she sounds in these letters. It is Ms Paraskeva's naturally flowing barefoot dance, more than the words of Duncan's many passionate letters, which brings this wonderful artist magically back to life on the stage.

 


 
Old Red Lion Theatre
418 John Street, London EC1V 4NJ ORG
Tues - Sat 7.30pm, matinees 3:00pm Sat. and Sun.
Tickets: £12: Pay What You Can Thursdays Apply
Box Office: 020 7837 7816

www.universalcitizens.co.uk


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