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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Some Trace of Her

National Theatre, London, Until 21st October

Written by Tanya Geddes

‘Tonight I am an Owl’ showcases a selection of Hannah Waldron‘s illustrations which transport you to her bitter sweet dream world.

You will discover sleepy creatures peering out at you, cialis 40mg find wispy floating landscapes and an assortment of other pensive musings.

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Strolling into the Old Shoreditch Station from a rather rainy Shoreditch day, I felt I should be drinking a cup of coco. And so I did.

The illustrations are formed from myriads of sinuous lines and frillings of little wedges and diamonds that allude to introvert reveries.

It’s all rather pleasant-and being pleasant is a bold thing for an artist to do, as opposed to making a straight dive for the-shudder-’gritty’. More importantly in this case it’s a pleasantness that had been well executed. There’s something endearingly absent-minded and honest about it all.

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About a week ago I received an email from the V&A detailing what was hot in the art world. At the end of the email was a quick summery of ‘Some Trace of her’ showing at the National theatre described as a hybrid film/ theatre collaboration. After a spot of googling I found out that the play was inspired by Dostoevsky‘s 1868 novel, purchaseThe Idiot‘ and was directed by the progressive Kate Mitchell (who adapted Virginia Woolf‘s novel, ‘The Waves‘).

To be honest, even after reading a selection of reviews about ‘Some Trace of Her’ I was still left puzzled. A mix of film and theatre where they film live, a plot that consisted of two men falling in love with a tragic femme fatale, all the members of the play swapping roles; surely this sounded more like a performance art installation? Arriving with only a vague idea and sat in a central position I soon let the theatrical elements of dimmed lights transport me to an unknown world.

What emerged was a stage where three cameras sat documenting different scenes, which were then projected onto a large screen above. As the actors bustled away at recording, acting, speaking voice over’s, setting up scenes, we were urged to watch the screen which in comparison, flowed effortlessly. This tension at once startled the audience who finally clocked on to the fact that everything was filmed live.

Once I had gotten over the live element, I easily slunk into an atmospheric environment. Black and white scenes filled with characters smoking and flowing stream of consciousness dialogue signalled an age old world where angst, torment, unrequited love ruled. Elongated shadows, close ups of faces and nervous hand jestures twiddling cigarettes created an uneasy feel, where the characters stood on the brink of emotional collapse.

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photos by Stephen Cummisky

As I found out afterwards, the idea of image is central to the play. As described in the brochure, ‘the novel is analysed, dissected, fragmented and re-imagined as a series of discrete filmic shots and sound effects’ (Leo Warner). This introduces the concept of external image, of memory as a series of symbolic references, of the mind as a skewed reworking of words, images, that are continually dislodged; all of which is alluded to through the play’s fragmented scenes, split screens and voiceovers.

What the play does so effectively is to allow you to delve into the constructed world of three characters all riddled with problems. From Prince Myshkin (Ben Whishaw) who is magnetically drawn to the abused girl, Natasha Filippova who holds herself in contempt, to the jealous and obsessive admirer Rogozhin-all the characters are doomed. However there is always the hope of redemption, as alluded to in the shots of trees, the only natural imagery in the play. Yet this happiness as noted by Myshin, ‘You know, I can’t understand how one can pass by a tree and not be happy about the sight of it. Think how many beautiful things there are at every step, things even the most wretched man cannot but find beautiful’ is as erratic and fleeting as his epileptic fits.

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photos by Stephen Cummisky

The performances from Whishaw as the angsty Prince Myshkin is both mesmerising and striking whilst the beautiful Natasha and Rogozhin bounce well off of Myskin. The play’s exploration of surface and what goes on behind the image, is also impressive. As with the hallucinatory image of the doll being bathed in dirt to signify Natasha’s status as fallen woman who can never be cleansed, all the figures are soon soiled by individual experiences. Their predicament as voiced through Emily Dickinson‘s acute line, ‘I could not feel to feel’ leaves each character psychologically fractured.

Through innovative film and sound devices, Kate Mitchell presents a play that is both complex yet effortlessly executed. The play touches on each character’s tumultuous inner minds where anger, terror, hope at redemption, masochism and doom rein rampant. But perhaps the most significant impact is the play’s imaginative response of the tension of the image, compared with the mechanisms of psychology; which forces you to confront the idea that an apparent perfect image is not as perfect or calm as it initially seems.

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