The Marked weaves fantasy and fairy-tale into a story set on the streets of modern day London. Jack (Samuel Fogell) is a prince-cum-man who has grown up in the grasps of a damaged queen, his alcoholic mother. Jack is armed with his weapons – a torch – and shield – a blanket – which protect him from his monstrous mother in childhood as well as the daemons he encounters whilst sleeping rough on the streets today as an adult. Told through puppetry, beautifully sculpted masks and physical theatre, Theatre Témoin have created a stunning and moving spectacle with The Marked, which they’re previewing at the Brighton Fringe before touring London hostels and officially opening the show at the Edinburgh Fringe later this year.
Filipe Gomes’ sound design blends neatly with Fogell’s movements as he navigates his way through time and space on the streets. The touching plotline of Jack clutching mentally and physically to his childhood fantasies is heightened when we learn his acquaintance, Pete (Tom Stacy), has his own make-believe scenario whereby his tent is in fact a palace on this inside. The vulnerability and coping mechanisms we witness in both men contrasts with the harsher reality we’re later faced with, in which Pete shoots heroine to numb the pain of sleeping rough. On realising what Pete is reduced to, and desiring to protect his partner Sophie (Dorie Kinnear), who is on the bottle despite being pregnant, Jack must face his childhood terrors once more in order to “defeat the darkness in her veins”.
Will Pinchin’s masks, Peter Morton’s puppet design and Alfie Sowden’s puppet development make The Marked special. In one of several unique and visually effective sequences, a torrent of bin bags rise like lava out of a dumper bin, pouring over Jack before lifting and engulfing him entirely. All three performers are talented puppeteers, with Fogell – dressed nearly identically to the puppet of younger Jack – spilling his emotional performance into the puppet of his younger self. Also aesthetically pleasing and flawlessly carried off is the moment Kinnear, as the queen, is controlled like a puppet by Stacy, before the two mould themselves into one giant, claw-handed beast. The subtle moments of realism, such as the tramp shuffling in the shadows behind the mesh fencing whilst the action takes place in the foreground, are welcome addition to the visuals. With its emotional ending in which Jack, through helping Sophie, makes peace with his troubled memories of his mother, this is a story which will touch many souls.
The Marked is playing The Warren until 9 May 2016. For more information and tickets, see The Other Place Brighton website.