Monday, 26 November 2012

THE ABYSS: Peter Oswald at The Studio Lounge Totnes Devon

not bored

The Studio Lounge tucked away in the Industrial estate in Totnes Devon is not the most unlikely place to experience interesting theatre. All over the country there are intriguing venues where acolytes can gather and feel they are still part of a thinking minority. It’s refreshing here in this Devon backwater, however. Totnes’ recent fight against Costa Coffee has been national news and it is often referred to as England’s “funkiest town,” nonetheless it’s reassuring, especially in the light of the demise of Dartington, to see that theatre is still thriving here, in a tiny community-run venue.

Last evening’s performance of THE ABYSS – a handful of short plays and poems by Peter and Alice Oswald, performed by the Oswalds, and actress Josephine Larsen, allowed an audience of about 35 to reflect and be amused. At times there were moments of brilliance, and at others a lack of coherence, but overall what nice people and good integrity.

Alice Oswald’s superb poem FOX, read by the poet and describing an encounter with the wild animal, resonated with a haunting and emotive brilliance, while her husband’s “He Keeps Dying” where a wife is at a loss to save her perpetually keeling-over husband even though she has a purpose built “zapper” , allowed us to laugh, although at what I was not quite sure – possibly Peter Oswald slowly turning into a sort of youthful John Le Mesurier.
Oswald’s writing is at best, I felt as a newcomer to his work, when poetic, as in the highly engaging “Helen of Troy” strongly performed by Larsen, and reminiscent, it should be said, of Dario Fo’s Medea. In fact I did feel that Peter Oswald’s work is derivative – at times of Beckett, maybe of Edward Bond’s Saved – in “Pram” for example, where an angry woman seems to be in an intense conversation with her infant child – but this did not detract from what I felt to be the true integrity of the writing. Like a piece of abstract art – we may not always know why we are engaged and might need to spend some time with the painting.

I was at times greatly moved, amused and when able to allow the poetry to wash over me – captivated.

 Annie Bowie

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