Bloody Poetry

Wed 7th – Sat 10th November 2012

reviews

Alicia Keys

at 02:24 on 8th Nov 2012

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Primed only by the show’s ominous title and the nude backside of a woman on its poster, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I enjoyed it greatly, and after watching it, the title makes more sense. Constantly shifting tone in the production requires a similarly flexible title. At times the play meditates on poetic responses to literal bloodiness and tragedy; at other times its whimsy seems to require a more colloquial “Bloody Poetry!” As it progresses, the play is alternately fun and eerily troubling, eventually challenging the audience to decide where poetry ends and real life begins.

Early on, and to much audience laughter, Percy Shelley (affectionately called just “Bysshe”) describes the four leads as an “unholy holy band…of atheistic perverts”- and so they are. The first act is a very successful literary romp, carried largely by the energy and charisma of Arty Bolour Froushan as the libertine Byron. Their re-enactment of Plato’s Cave is a highlight in its perfection—at once sinister, comic, and profound. Its questions about illusion and reality will serve as the backdrop of the entire play.

But the second act has us leave the magnificent summer dream world of Lake Geneva, sacrificing witty entertainment to portray the pathetic deterioration of each character. Self-indulgent ecstasy has no place in the “real world” and we trade couples making out on stage for women lamenting the deaths of their children.

The second act, though distressing, is definitely the weaker half of the production. Many characters attempt to demonstrate desperation through spontaneous frenzied shouting and yelling, but the effect is less stirring and more just jarring. The characters feel unreal, verging on the insane, and as such, unsympathetic. Tim Schneider, though, as Bysshe, takes center stage quite expertly. He is convincing and perfectly cast—the lean poet, tortured by demons, obsessed with Wordsworth, adulterous without seeming detestable, devoted champion of poetry, but above all, sad and unfulfilled. If the second act feels pathetic, it may just be because it accurately mirrors the piteousness of its characters.

Bloody Poetry is a must-see for those who have a particular interest in Byron or either Shelley, and for those who don’t, it is still an entertaining exhibition of poetry as a lifestyle.

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Sean Tomas Ford

at 09:45 on 8th Nov 2012

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The thing that stood out last night was what I will refer to as the precision of the production. This was a beautifully realised and superbly acted production. Quibbles aside my only real issues are with the text as opposed to the production which sadly limited a very talented company.

The most impressive aspect of the play was the direction. This was not a black box, student, period piece. James Fennemore has taken the script and fashioned a very clear, aesthetically complete production. The space is used to its full effect, the imposing open bright O’Reilly transforming from Plato’s Cave, to beaches and Venice thanks to a very powerful, yet simple light design combined with the set. The two huge pieces of white fabric seemed at first a little too abstract for what is essentially a period piece, however they gave the set a great malleability and their simplicity was forgotten as, the cast’s costume and use of props still gave a strong sense of the past, but perhaps one entering a more modern and progressive world, which tied in well with the play’s themes of pushing the boundaries of art.

Furthermore the performances from the cast were superb. Particular mention must go to the male leads Tim Schneider and the superbly named Arty Bolour Froushan who must be destined for period pieces. Both delivered strong but contrasting performances as the contemplative and frustrated Shelley with his darting eyes next to the somewhat beastly and hedonistic Lord Byron. I should make one thing clear: this is a very pretentious and self-indulgent script revolving around poetry and the battle that they face from society as a whole.

However any show that claims that the role of poets is as the ‘unacknowledged legislators of mankind’ one begins to realise the cast have an uphill job making their characters in anyway relatable and importantly, likeable to the audience. So it is a true feat when they do this. The scenes towards the end of the first half as the young poets sit in their holiday home, are oddly comforting and involving. The group dynamic is one of the plays strongest elements and the Plato’s cave scene, however ridiculous, is still entertaining and we do feel that this is a genuine group of intellectuals pushing boundaries together, and never is the illusion dropped.

Based on the first half alone, the play was looking incredibly strong, however after the interval there are a sequences of events that seem underwhelming and unrelated, which makes it much more an opportunity to appreciate all the great things the production was doing but feeling ultimately a little disappointed by the story that they were telling. To give one example of this, the death of Shelley’s child in Venice, comes out of nowhere besides some very heavy and blunt foreshadowing when Mary tells us that she fears something may break. We have never seen this baby and the lack of physical presence makes the whole thing seem a little underwhelming. Despite his best efforts it is hard to feel much sympathy at this point for Shelley as throughout the show all he has done is fornicate, ponder and whinge.

Technically the show was hugely impressive, as was already mentioned the lighting was inventive, beautiful and yet simple. Any potential light designers should watch this purely as a lesson in the use of relatively small rig in creating beautiful and well lit scenes; hats off to Douglas Perkins. This was only helped by the use of haze throughout the show which gave the decadence that the cast was talking about a physical manifestation, as if the very air was heavy with it. This is coupled with the use of ambient sound which was a little less impressive; often the sound would start or cut out and sometimes detracted from the actual words on stage. Also as the journey headed towards Europe in the second half things became even more ridiculous, with classical tunes bursting into life at the most inappropriate moments, sometimes hindering the dramatic tension that was trying to be created.

For me the theatre is about story and the telling of it. The production helps to make this process more visceral and enjoyable. So whilst the production is truly impressive, I struggle to walk away with a sense of resolution mainly due to the script. If I could review the production alone it would be an easy 4 stars perhaps petitioning for more. However, as a night at the theatre, whilst enjoyable and impressive, it still remained ultimately confusing.

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