Saturday, May 22, 2010

The back roads to Bristol are thick with luminous may blossom and cowparsley and vanilla-candled horse-chestnut trees so each journey is a delight in these gorgeous glittering dusks... When I think of some of the aggressive streets I've lived in - the redwhite&blue daubed belligerence of Belfast kerbs, the glue-bag litter and aircraft fuel stench of Hayes - I have to pinch myself to be sure I'm not dreaming I really live here now... (Not while driving, of course, only when it's safe and legal to do so.)
So, another trip, another Mayfest show: best yet, Everything Falls Apart from NiE at the Tobacco Factory.
I thought the title intentionally evoked that seminal novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, or the Yeats' line that inspired it, but perhaps it owes more to the lyrics by Fee “when everything falls apart your arms hold me together…you keep holding on." Whatever, this was an incredibly powerful piece of theatre. The storyline is simple: two boys from Slovakia smuggled into England – an unforgettably horrendous reconstruction which involved sealing them in a fridge – will die in a terrorist attack on the underground. We meet them busking on a Circle Line train created by the audience in this Promenade performance, and we're enticed around the different sets - the party, the bike-ride, the livingroom, the loo - to follow the journey of Roman and his 'idiot' brother Martin, who he cares for as George did Lennie in Mice and Men. These two enormously empathetic central characters are surrounded by macabre caricatures of fecklessness, cruelty, and avarice that Dickens would have coveted for his darkest tale yet. Yet there's a lot to laugh at too in this excitingly physical, musical, high-energy, intimate performance - an extraordinary show that makes victim-voyeurs of us all - for toasting their birthday, for watching their pain.
Final Mayfest trip, and everything fell apart: Edward Rapley opened Who Knows Where by saying he only decided what to do on Monday, a claim uncomfortably credible as his monologue proceeded. There was a moment of excitement when he sucked and then spat black paint, but that was about it. Narrative style was modelled on those audience-participation comedy acts with topics picked from a bucket, but we weren't allowed that involvement - although when he told us the show would continue 'even if I had only 24 hours to live' a girl did call out "Could we still tell you it's shit?"
Released early into a beautiful evening, Rosie and I debriefed at the historic King William.

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