Monday 20 August 2012

EIF 2012 - Gulliver's Travels, or, In Which the Clothes Are Once Again Insufficient For the Emperor

This latest loose version of a classic text offers something of an advance over Meine faire Dame. It has at least got something to substitute for the character and narrative which it has, in the typical manner of the modern European theatre director, decided to dispense with. In fact it has about 45 minutes worth of substitute material. Unfortunately this show lasts for an hour and a half.

Director Silviu Purcarete is also refreshingly, almost amusingly honest about his approach. One of the early images (after a horse has been led round the stage – an animal presence which is justified in the final image but not here) is of a man clearly intended to be Swift/Gulliver being knocked out by a company member, and the book from which he is about to read ripped to shreds. No one can say that Purcarete has not made his intentions clear.

Pucarete then picks a single aspect of Swift's book – the concept of the Yahoos and spends the rest of the show indicating that man is a brutish unpleasant beast through a series of tableaux. Some of this is very visually striking – especially the shadowplay, and the chorus acting as miniatures being played with by a human. But nearly all the episodes (especially the final one which is rather sub Einstein on the Beach) outstay their welcome, and there is too much hanging around between them. Above all, they have nothing to say beyond repeating the basic point, which is why I suggest that the whole thing would have been much stronger condensed to about half the length.

But even my imaginary condensed 45 minute version would leave one further problem unsolved. That is that physical movement and visual spectacle do not in themselves, however impressive and striking, ultimately function as a sufficient substitute for having dispensed with plot and character. Consequently, rather than appalling me or moving me this was ultimately another show that left me indifferent.

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