Based upon the novel by the late, great Hungarian novelist Ágota Kristóf, Forced Entertainment’s staging of The Notebook is a very different animal from the brilliant and extraordinary adaptation by Flemish company De Onderneming that played the Edinburgh International Festival in 2001. The book tells the psychologically fascinating and emotionally compelling tale of young twin boys who survive the Second World War in the squalid cottage of their tough, uncouth grandmother (who is believed to have poisoned their grandfather).
Whereas the Belgian piece relied very strongly on its choreography and physicality, acclaimed English performance company Forced Entertainment minimise the movement; two male readers, scripts in hand, dressed identically, sit and, occasionally, stand or walk part way across the bare stage. They are characterised by calm, stoical stasis.
Anyone who has seen both productions can’t help but note how evocative they are in their simplicity. This is a great testament to the power of Kristóf’s writing, but also to the methods of both companies.
In the case of Forced Ents, the innocence and (impressive and sinister) knowingness of the boys is, paradoxically, enhanced and magnified by the modesty of a beautifully realised, two-actor performance which insinuates its way into one’s psyche and emotions.
Touring until January 30, 2016. For tour details, visit: www.forcedentertainment.com
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© Mark Brown