FRINGE REVIEW – Teddy and Topsy, C


4-30 Aug, 1615 (1715) @ C, Chambers Street

By Danielle Farrow

Against a backdrop designed by theatre designer Edward Gordon Craig, Anna-Marie Paraskeva is Isadora Duncan, dressed in her iconic Grecian manner, dancing – with shadows cast – in her style, and living childishly, sensuously, coquettishly, demandingly and tenderly through her writings, mostly letters written to her lover Craig.
All the right character notes are there: the stillness before dancing, and symbolic Duncan gestures and steps; the earthy aspects that would make modern dance ’real’ alongside her dreaming inability to connect long with reality in her life; the mood swings of the relationship and of ‘Topsy’ herself, with the feeling of inevitable separation and possible exploitation; tragedy in the death of her children (one of whom was also Craig’s), and joy in her passionate love. The acting is layered, varied and superb, and it infuses the dance – this is part of the real beauty on display, the way in which movement is seamlessly part of ‘acting’ scenes, while real feeling enriches the dance, following truthfully from what has gone before or already paving the way for what is to come.
Unfortunately there are no biographical notes, or notes on the play, in the programme. As with Poem without a Hero (see review for this), Inside Intelligence presents pieces that would benefit from prior knowledge. Indeed, all publicity blurb refers to ‘Isadora Duncan’ and ‘Gordon Craig’ – without prior knowledge or post-show research, how is one to know that ‘Gordon’ is not his first name? Knowing that he is actually Edward Gordon Craig is even necessary to make sense of the play’s title. There are also references to others: her children’s names can be worked out via context, but when Isadora makes reference to another man, it does make a difference to the story if that man is another lover or – as later research showed – a relation (case in point, her brother Raymond).
The performance of Teddy and Topsy, though – while the script alone may prove a little thin without explanation – is a great example of truth in acting and dance. It is intriguing, and enough can be gleaned from the performance to be satisfying too. Isadora Duncan wrote well, passionately, with apt phrases, and of course, her dance style is legendary. Anna-Marie Paraskeva embodies this ‘mother of modern dance’ and dances her into the audience’s collective heart.

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