Perhaps you were expecting an intimate, personal drama. The story of a painter maybe or an artist’s model in close up, and when this production begins, you might begin to think that your preconceptions were coming true. A doctor, a canvas, a woman who perhaps is an artist and a determinedly gnomic exchange of words.
Then, everything explodes as a wonderful transition takes place and the massive cast (16, I think) dressed perhaps to appear in a technicolour dream or nightmare, reveal themselves and move – with massive precision (the space isn’t that big) on and around two big tables which, with a couple of chairs, form the only part of what could be called ‘a set’.
There’s a couple from their wedding, a horse rider, a schoolgirl, a ringmaster from a circus, a clown, an acrobat, a couple of burly maids – some of whom get greater focus as the plot, such as it is, evolves.
Anna is a painter, and features both as herself when young and older. Her story, from unhappy childhood to struggles with the critical reception of her work, is sketched in but hardly more, but it’s not a traditional plotline that is important here. What is important is the moving tableaux of characters, each one of which could be material for a static picture, and yet everything is in flux.
If you were looking for a hero, this production has one in the shape of the musical score, specifically composed, which is as fluid in the styles and motifs it adopts as the shapes of the swarming cast that it motivates and drives.
In a final scene in which the entire cast run for their lives directly towards us, Anna outpaces her demons, though with unspecified damage. It is energetic to the point of breathlessness, which is the quality that distinguishes this whole production.
Don’t look for a story. Just enjoy the unfolding tableaux.
Review by Michael Spring
The Woman and the Canvas
by Fourth Monkey & Theatre Re
The Monkey House
16th, 18th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, 26th August