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Vivid Dreams Productions


The Doorbells of Florence


by Andrew Losowsky


Directed by Tom Wright


Rosemary Branch Theatre


12 – 31 May 2009






A review by Mags Gaisford for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Andrew Losowsky rues the day he grew too old for bedtime stories. It seems his subconscious decided to compensate. In the Florence of October, 2003 a whim came to Losowsky urging him to photograph the doorbells of the city. Being, as an artist, familiar with these inexplicable compulsions and knowing it’s best to ask no questions, he followed it. In time, the photographs began to whisper the stories of imagined lives to him. Obedient slave to the caprices of his mind, he wrote them down.

 And so, the city of Florence becomes a stage set in the theatre of the writer’s imagination.
Playing on the idea of dreams triggered at the flick of a switch: like people summoned to their doors by bells: Losowsky brings the secret lives of the minds of these curious characters to life with the help of Tom Wright, Director, and the actors Samuel Collings and Jennifer Jackson.

 It’s beautifully done. From the stage set to the story telling, the performance has the elegance, simplicity and romance of an old Florentine alleyway. At the start, Collings and Jackson burst onto the stage like two puppets under a spell, to the sonorous chimes of said doorbells. Examining the props: two tape recorders and a slide projector: with coy, childlike curiosity, they soon discover the strange hold these rudimentary bits of technology can have over them. They are like the workers of the writer’s imagination, waiting to be called into action by flashes of inspiration.

 In turn, they take us through the city walls, through cranial walls, into the minds of residents: showing us stubborn dreams and secret aspirations, unexpressed sentiments, strange twists of fate.  The delectable prose gives the impression of a writer thoroughly enjoying his trade. Over – sentimentality is avoided by his persistent wit, as he exposes peoples’ delusions and foibles with astute observations. A favourite, perhaps, is the woman, new to the town and self – confessedly bad with maps who, finds a Cyrillic map in her house. Keen to learn a new language at the same time as exploring the city, she stubbornly, unwittingly, superimposes the Slovak city of Bratislava onto the streets of Florence.
 We are told, in the programme, that ideas ‘often emerged from previously overlooked details in the images’. Each image is projected whilst its accompanying story is read out, so that you can trace the connections. The success of the play is largely due to the virtuosity of Collings and Jackson in their storytelling. However I think it’s most triumphant when the theatrical elements are combined to full effect. Dina Mullen’s subtle and haunting sound effects provide a smooth and fluid accompaniment, maintaining the pace and deepening the timbre of the stories. Pete Bragg’s lighting skills come into their own for the story of the ‘Illuminati’ doorbell: a short, silent, tantalising play of miming and lights.

 In the programme, Tom Wright explains his and Alex Mercer (producer)’s vision:

 ‘When Alex and I set up Vivid Dreams we wanted to enable people to see the world differently; to put a bit of wonder back into an increasingly bleak world.’

 In this way they are like Mario, the existentially stranded amnesiac looking for clues to his former life and ideas to follow. Eventually sensing an unwelcome familiarity in the melancholy sighs of certain passers – by, he stumbles innocently upon his altruistic impulse, and begins swapping two Euro coins for surprised smiles, having discovered the ‘elevating power of a small bi – metallic coin’.

 This is a quiet production that does indeed reproduce the undemanding, enchanting, relaxing effect of a bedtime story. It’s not really for children though. There are no extendable wooden noses of conscience: the ‘wonder’ lies inside the minds of the characters rather than in magic or special effects. It would appeal to the nosey and inquisitive type, the lover of chance, of found things, of overheard conversations: those among us who can’t walk past a discarded piece of paper in the street.

 The provision of duvets would have sent us all nicely off into a sleep filled with exciting dreams. This is probably why it only lasts an hour.



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