On the way home in the car, and the journey from The Baxter to Woodstock is very short I admit, I struggled but couldn’t explain to Big Friendly how I felt about FTH:K‘s new production Womb Tide, which opened at the studio last night.
I was very excited for this show. I am a believer in FTH:K. I love what they do, what they stand for, their passion, commitment, creativity and brilliant work ethic. I love the amazing Womb Tide mobile hanging in The Baxter foyer. I really, really wanted to like this production.
And for the first fifteen minutes I was absolutely charmed. Liezl de Kok is so cute, engaging, magnetic and delicious (not to mention entirely beautiful) and Daniel Buckland is delicious and equally engaging. I loved being introduced to the characters and set and relationship between them. This culminated in the best SOS (sex on set) moment I have ever seen on stage. That is how it must be done. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
Unfortunately, that was the, excuse the pun, climax of the play for me, and from then on it became quite hard going. Here’s what I think happens. Everything feels the same. Because of the minimal use of words, and almost clowning technique of physicalisation it all comes out on the same emotional level. When things are cool and dandy (love, sex, marriage) there is enough energy and action to keep things sparking and alive. The minute the thing turns serious it starts feeling long and uncomfortable and repetitive.
I know that Ugli Bob (the amazing director Rob Murray) is strongly moving in the direction of creating a physical theatre vocabulary. The danger here is that the piece, the subject matter and storyline, seem to need a shift of treatment when things change emotionally. The actions are just not enough, and the few words are just moments of deep frustration for the characters, and I suspect for some of us in the audience too. Which also brings me to my next point. I definitely got the few words, or even part words, in their seventies flavoured Seff Effrican accents, but I didn’t really understand why some stuff was in gibberish.
Unfortunately, for me, there was a disconnect between the set-up and the story.I felt like I could see what was happening; I understood it all fine, but I was somehow disengaged. While the piece has so many things that work in its favour; a great cast, brilliant set, gorgeous and committed puppeteers, lovely costumes and props, clear intention and style, it didn’t reach the finishing line for me. I felt like I wanted to be crying at the end, but instead I was pissed off with the person sitting next to me who had been fiddling with her very bright phone for twenty minutes.
I also felt that the sound was a combination of FTH:K’s last two productions, Pictures of You and Quack! There was another problem, and that was the space. I missed all the stuff that happened on the floor, when the actors and puppet and puppeteers were not standing up. In fact I am pretty sure that I missed quite important stuff in the story, that I just never saw happen. This is a problem with the studio, but it was horrible feeling like there was stuff going on that we couldn’t see at all.
Look, it could just be me. In fact, I’m half hoping that it is, and that others will find this work brilliant. Please leave comments. Let’s have a debate.