EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL
Reviewed by Mark Brown
In a year in which violence against women is a prominent theme on the Edinburgh Fringe (Nirbhaya at Assembly Hall, Our Glass House at Whale Arts Centre), the International Festival offers, in Chilean company Teatrocinema’s Histoire d’amour, a very distinct picture of one man’s reign of terror over a woman. Based upon French author Régis Jauffret’s ironically entitled novel, the piece is presented in the company’s trademark combination of live acting and highly wrought projections.
The story sees a male English teacher develop an almost instant obsession with Sofia, a woman he encounters on a train. He quickly becomes, by horrifying turn, her stalker, physical attacker, rapist and torturer.
Jauffret’s fiction(which was released in 1999) sees-saws disturbingly between the deluded thought processes and the vile actions of a man who, in some regards, seems to resemble Ariel Castro (the man who was recently sentenced to life imprisonment for the kidnapping, imprisonment and multiple rape of three women in Cleveland, Ohio). However, unlike Castro’s victims, Sofia is not imprisoned in her abuser’s home but, rather, in the succession of apartments and workplaces to which the maniacally obsessive teacher tracks her down.
For this show, which is told upon and through a large screen erected at the front of the stage, the Chileans’ aesthetic might be better called “Teatrocartoon”. The actors, Bernadita Montero and Julián Marras, emerge in the midst of monochrome storyboards, complete with speech bubbles and onomatopoeic word splashes.
One can’t help but feel that there is an uneasy fit between the artistic form chosen by director Juan Carlos Zagal (who also co-authored the adaptation with Montserrat Quezada) and Jauffret’s dreadful subject matter. The cartoon can be a serious medium, of course; one need only consider Art Spiegelman’s acclaimed Maus series of graphic novels about the Nazi Holocaust to realise that.
The problem here lies, not in the cartoon form itself, but in both the technical brilliance and the very exaggerated, highly-stylised acting required to make it work in a live theatre context. Time after time Teatrocinema’s trickery comes to the fore in a discomfiting victory of form over content.
In a certain moment, one is wowed by an image achieved by genuinely remarkable stage logistics. However, that sensation is followed quickly by a realisation that, disconcertingly, the artifice is, presumably unintentionally, trivialising the most harrowing of subjects.
Until Aug 17. For further information, visit: eif.co.uk
This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Telegraph on August 16 , 2013:
© Mark Brown