Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Moments at The Arcola

I do not find theatre particularly engaging, I know that is a sweeping generalisation considering the variety within theatre but on the occasions when I do visit a play I often find the performances stilted and contrived. There is something about the need to project to the audience, every action and gesture or phrase seems over elaborate and, well, theatrical. Even the words associated with theatre bother me, the very words ‘theatre’ and ‘performance’ did not sit easy with me. In any art form I look for subtlety and theatre literally and metaphorically shouts too loud.

So it was with great hope but a little doubt that I visited the Arcola Theatre for last nights performance of ‘Chasing the Moment’, especially as this play deals with one of my great artistic loves, jazz music. Jack Shepherd’s play follows an evening of a performance by a jobbing jazz quartet and the personalities who come together around the quartet, this evening chronicles the potential endings of the relationships of the musicians and their friends, families and acquaintances and the very site at which they gather.

The dialogue between classes, races, generations and sexes, the breakdown of and the damage to relationships by our lack of understanding of others is contained in this play. Along the way the musicians show their feelings and understandings of the legacies and history of jazz music, slavery, immigration, the changing face of the political landscape, dependency, love, birth and death.

The measure of this play which sets it apart from other plays is the sense of reality, actor and writer Shepherd has obviously observed deeply the language and attitudes that underpin the subject matter of his play and great direction, acting and a sparse but realistic set add to the effect that we are just onlookers in a real life dialogue. The actors do not play to the audience, they play to each other and as an audience we just exist around them, this is no mannered ‘performance’ and it is all the better for it.

If, like me, you think theatre is not real enough try ‘Chasing The Moment’, the Arcola Theatre might just be the place to think again?

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