BE Festival, The REP, Birmingham Tuesday 23rd June, 2015
This year’s BE Festival at Birmingham’s REP theatre gets off to a cracking start with this double bill of winning shows from previous years.
First up is Locus Amoenus by Atresbandes from Spain. Chairs are set out to represent the interior of a train. Three passengers are unwittingly on the last ride of their lives. Captions projected on the backdrop tell us from the outset that in one hour the train will be derailed, having run over a rabbit, the entrails of which work their way into the train’s electrical system… It’s bizarre but it’s coming.
One of the passengers is female (Mònica Almirall Batet); in her sunglasses she seems oblivious of the annoyance she engenders with her interminable unzipping and zipping of her holdall. At the front, two men sit together. One is asleep. His head lolls on the other’s shoulder. He falls into deeper sleep and his face ends up in the other’s crotch. He wakes, apologises and they laugh. The sleeper (Albert Perez Hidalgo) says the other man reminds him of his late brother. The other man (Miguel Segovia Garrell) reveals he doesn’t speak English.
So begins this perfectly timed, beautifully executed piece that turns out to be about all of us. We share a common humanity but we are divided by language and a failure to communicate. But, deeper than that, we forget our mortality and get on with our lives and all their mundanity, barely taking time to reflect and appreciate what is passing us by. This hilarious piece is ultimately very poignant, as we all head towards death, our minds preoccupied with other thoughts. It’s one of the most enjoyable hours I’ve spent in a theatre in a long while.
Next up is Show, a one-man piece by Antonio Tagliarini from Italy. Unfortunately, it pales in comparison with the previous play. This one is less accessible, its structure loose, tied together only by the repetition of sections. It begins with a man sticking tape to the floor. He tapes a route right across the stage and out of the door. Then he comes back on and dances, graceful but somehow humorous in his attitudes. This goes on for about ten minutes before he grabs a mic and addresses us. He says he’s after ideas to fill the rest of the hour but quickly abandons consulting audience members. He dances and struts around. There is more tape. There is a water pistol. He dons a mask of his own face. He puts on a wig and a high-pitched voice. There is a sequence of photographs of himself, gradually fading away… It’s vaguely amusing and Tagliarini is a likeable presence, but the show doesn’t click with me. It keeps going until it stops.
Perhaps this is more like life, after all. Perhaps we are just filling time, drifting from one thing to another, getting stuck in repetitious ruts, until we fade…
Perhaps I get it after all.