Wednesday, September 27, 2017

'Nocturnes' by imitating the dog

27 September 2017

On Tuesday we were at the Stantonbury Theatre in Milton Keynes to see ‘Nocturnes’ - a new play by ‘imitating the dog’ which is on tour following a run at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. Written and directed by Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks, ‘Nocturnes’ is an exploration of the relationship between film and stage. A black & white film noir – a spy story set in Berlin in 1956 – is shown on a large screen, beneath which three actors stand at microphones on the stage, speaking the lines of dialogue for the film. Initially this appears just to be a very impressive gimmick: the lip-synching with the film is spot-on and it’s difficult for the audience to know whether to watch the film or the live actors. But gradually you realise something more clever is going on. As the two lead actors attempt to deviate from the written script with the occasional improvisation, the third person on the stage forces them back onto the proper text. Meanwhile the film begins to jump and distort in response to the disruptions on the stage. And the audience begins to realise that every line of dialogue can be taken either as part of the filmed story or as a comment on what is happening on stage. This ambiguity is strangely unsettling. Indeed the whole performance is a very strange experience. Like Pirandello’s ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’, the characters Harry and Amy (played on stage and screen by Laura Atherton and Matt Prendergast) are aware they are trapped in a drama and become desperate to escape. ‘Nocturnes’ is an unusual and compelling theatrical experience.

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