The first thing one should always do when deciding on theatrical offerings at the Edinburgh International Festival is read the small print. In this case, the key word is “stylised” - the acting, and the vocal delivery in particular (I have never heard a child who sounded like the child does here) fight the text and pretty successfully drain away the emotional impact that it ought to have.
This is not uncommon in EIF theatrical offerings, as previous reviews of mine have indicated. But in this case it is particularly frustrating because of the quality of the text. The play is an adaptation of Alessandro Baricco's novel of the same name. Baricco, most famous for his novella Silk is a master of that particular form of shorter fiction. His prose has a rhythm to it, so that the pages turn rapidly – in Sin Sangre the novella the pace is unrelenting and the dialogue came alive in my head. I read the book not long ago, and the text, as conveyed by the subtitles last night, certainly read like Baricco.
The first problem with the adaptation, to my mind, is Teatro Cinema's principle claim to an original idea. As the name implies, the show (and The Man Who Fed Butterflies, their other offering) attempt to fuse film and theatre. As the programme note explains, the actors perform in a strip of space between two screens onto which are projected the film of the various backgrounds. This was not wholly dissimilar, although obviously far more complex in execution, to the use of film in Sunset Boulevard. For the first 10-15 minutes I appreciated the complexity of the staging and its visual beauty. But as time goes on the novelty wears off, and the process seems to get increasingly in the way of the story as the narrative – which zips along in Baricco's novel, holding at least this reader in a vice like grip – grinds to a halt.