Reptember is the rep season at New Diorama Theatre, and resident ensemble The Faction present nine classic works of theatre and literature remodelled into one-person shows. These are divided up in three triple bills of which your reviewer saw one: a lecture on Lorca’s concept of duende, Goethe’s Faust and Shakespeare’s poem The Rape of Lucrece.
In the first, Kate Sawyer is seen preparing a lecture on the Spanish writer Lorca’s untranslatable idea of the unmissable ingredient in all good art. Failing to speak, she turns on a recording of her own voice while she illustrates the words with images on a light box and various props. The commedia dell’ arte acting mode combined with bits of mime is fun for a while, but the proposed seriousness and profundity of the lecture’s content is soon marred by the visual additions to the text. Despite some moments that genuinely capture our interest, the piece is generally lacking in theatrical attraction, and thus this lecture too much becomes an actual one.
Once Cary Crankson takes over, in an unexpected transition, the mood instantly changes and we are in the presence of a modern-day Mephistopheles. Reared by the streets and with an unmistakable South London accent, Satan’s helper engages us in an inventive retelling of the classic tale. The flow and rap-like rhythm of the text by Gareth Jandrell is impressive, but ultimately Crankson’s stage presence and precise timing ought to be lauded most. If a bit long, this Faust effortlessly revisits the dark themes of human decision Goethe’s work is so well known for.
The third section is Shakespeare, and Christopher Hughes reciting, acting out and veritably living the entire poem about the woes of the young girl is quite a theatrical event. Devoid of all possible embellishments, the stage only contains Lucrece’s bed as a centrepiece, which, in a horrible parallel, is messed up as Hughes dives into all the characters seemingly at once. He delivers the words with the technique of a highly accomplished Shakespearean actor, while all personas are treated with clear emotional intelligence. A true tour de force, and a splendid end to what turns out to be rather a long evening of theatre stripped to its roots.
The Faction’s simple aesthetic and brave artistry continues to impress, and this reinvention of the classic rep season is one the real theatre lover ought not to miss. The other triple bills include Medea, Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman.
Reptember is at the New Diorama until 20 September. For more information and tickets see the New Diorama Theatre website.