Terms such as ‘physical theatre’ and ‘multimedia performance’ tend to be painfully overused nowadays, and are often accompanied by the faint, earnest-but-average whiff of GCSE Drama. Refreshingly, Green Eyed Zero’s latest production does better than most in steering clear of any such associations; the company’s attempt to marry the visual impressiveness of their circus skills, bodily feats and technological innovations with the same depth of meaning that audiences can hope for in Beckett or Kafka is truly laudable.
The first quarter of an hour is a dream, in several senses. Rachel Pollard and Sebastien Valade’s sinuous and captivating movement around the space has a strangely illusory quality, but the clarity of expression remains sublime; the suggestion that we are witnessing two characters in some kind of psychiatric retreat is strong without being overwrought. When the multi-touch screen first comes into play, the extra dimension it brings to the production becomes instantly clear – having been privately sceptical about how successfully such technology could be integrated without feeling gratuitous, I was happy to be proved wrong.
Yet where things start to unravel is in the company’s seemingly obsessive insistence on interpolating such moments of visceral, ambiguous storytelling with scenes which seek to provide clear answers to questions which would be best left for the audience’s consideration. The introduction of the disembodied voice of a therapist figure is wholly unwelcome, and seems to serve purely to tear down the subtle narrative and character constructs which Pollard and Valade have worked so hard to build. Anyone who picks up the programme-flyer after the performance will find themselves bombarded by more logical thinking; an explanatory synopsis and information on mental disorders removes much chance of being able to confidently argue for your own interpretation on the journey home. Finally, Valade in particular seems uncomfortable with communicating the nuances of character through dialogue; naturalistic scenes which provide more solid narrative detail feel counter-intuitive when they come at the price of a strong sense of character identity.
The truth is that the term ‘circus skills’ could never be used less appropriately than to describe what can be seen in the most inspired moments of Folie à Deux; this is performance art, in which balls, skittles and books flying through the air lose any material meaning and become symbolic of relationships, memories and states-of-mind. One only wishes that such thrilling, thought-provoking, question-raising imagery could be allowed to flourish without the imposition of those pesky, almost always unsatisfactory things we call ‘answers’.
Folie à Deux is at the Brewery Theatre until 24 March. www.tobaccofactorytheatre.com/shows/category/the_brewery