By Mark Bolsover
The Centre for Reorganisation opens its doors for an open lecture and demonstration of its treatment techniques. With sharp, dry humour and brilliantly conceived surreal physical performances that seem to be keeping a tenuous grip on an intense hysteria, The Sun Apparatus Theatre Company present ‘Unprescribed’, a smart and charming devised absurd physical theatre piece
The show is a meditation on the provisionality and inadequacy of our attempts to rein in, suppress, or to resolve our anxieties and borderline neuroses, and the seemingly central role these faltering and (perhaps ultimately) doomed tactics play in self-definition and identity.
Dr Blink (Katherine Vince) and her assistant (Justina Kaminskaitė) present two ‘cases’.
Dana Etgar gives an interestingly restrained, muted and wounded performance as Case A, a woman who attempts to control her fear of mortality and endless, helpless repetition through the controlled, linear act of slicing vegetables. The physical element of her performance is genuinely vulnerable, bravely open and really very funny.
Sarah Kenney gives a charming and well-pitched performance as Case B: a nervous, fumbling young woman, constantly approaching the outer edges of a form of hysteria, and obsessed with the environment and the, possibly incalculable, impact of a given life. Her character struggles, often breathlessly with the burdens of responsibility and guilt that the sheer scale of her anxieties precipitates, and which an immersion in the detail and processes of the everyday helps to alleviate.
The ‘Centre’ represents a conceit fro stripping away the mundane everyday details and concerns, which, however unintentionally or inadvertently, serve to distract from and to suppress the anxieties with which the character’s are confronted with such extremity here. A kind of thought experiment, it reveals the full scope, scale and, ultimately, the absurdity of these anxieties when truly unfettered and carried to their limits. As the show progresses through a number of, increasingly surreal, physical set-pieces, a growing and absurd number of props and detritus begin to litter the, initially, sterile and all but empty stage.
There are sequences of real touching beauty here, particularly one, in which the audience is invited to participate, concerned with loss through the metaphor of a sailing boat, and accompanied by a beautiful use of props, lighting and touching performances by the Etgar and Kenney, stood out.
In her role as the assistant, Kaminskaitė is, for the most part, mute and doubles as tech and stage manager throughout the show. However, her chemistry with the others even without the support of dialogue, is very good (and indeed the chemistry between all the actors here is good, relying on physical cues and good facial reactions) and she is given a chance to shine in a very accomplished, unaccompanied and touching musical performance at the end of the show.
The star of the show is Vince. From the outset she gives a brilliant, confident, dry and extremely funny performance as Dr Blink, appearing to be at least three feet taller than she is off-stage. Her clipped, RP-accented, deadpan performance brilliantly plays the Doctor’s tenuous grasp on her obsessive nervous hysteria, released with excellent comedy timing here in short, sharp bursts. She shines particularly in a devised dance sequence featuring a fantastically naughty and suggestive deployment of carrots.
‘Unprescribed’ is a smart, well-conceived, well-executed genuinely touching and very funny piece of physical theatre
Unprescribed is on at Greenside, Nicolson Place until the 23rd (excluding the 17th) 17.15 (1hr)