Evocation, theSpace on the Mile, Review

Submitted by Jon Cross on Mon, 14 Aug '17 1.00pm
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Theatre Voliere and La Soupe Compagnie
Eric Domenicone (director), Yseult Welschinger (design and puppetry), Antoine Arlot (original score), Mick Wood (concept and translations), Chris Caridi (video projection design), Olivier Benoit (set construction), Natasha Wood (producer)
Audrey L'Ebrellec
Running time

Evocation is an attempt to conjure up something of the restless and troubled spirit of fin de si├Ęcle Europe with a dramatized recital of seven poems by an obscure Belgian symbolist poet.

It is probably fair to say that if Arnold Schoenberg had not drawn upon the same source for his seminal 1912 song cycle Pierrot Lunaire, these poems would have largely been forgotten a long time ago.

In this inventive and intimate staging, a moonstruck Columbine with flowing Pre-Raphaelite locks recites a sequence of short poems of growing emotional intensity. The verses are illuminated by haunting, evanescent images projected onto a gauze screen or acted out with puppetry, which switches between tender yet sinister domestic scenes and the knockabout slapstick of a Punch and Judy show.

If the staging is translucent, the text is pretty opaque for anyone unfamiliar with European symbolist poetry of the late nineteenth century. While strange individual images may intrigue and disturb, a modern audience will find it a challenge to grasp the full richness and meaning of the poems; too many of the cultural references no longer resonate in the same way.

A great deal of thought and care has clearly gone into crafting English versions of the poems, which avoid literal translation to preserve the music and spirit of the original. This has created what is powerful poetry in its own right. However, given that attempts to convey the meaning of the poems can be so difficult, it would have been interesting to hear one or two of the pieces in the original French, perhaps at the beginning and the end, even if these were then repeated in translation.

This is an intriguing, haunting piece of theatre even though its narrative is as elusive and fleeting as shadows in the moonlight.

Until August 26 (not 13, 20), 20:25, Age 14+