In La Performance, we peek behind the pretence of theatre and language. Instead of words, the performers use non-verbal techniques to tell the story, drawing on the Commedia dell’Arte tradition.
On the stage of the intimate Changing House space, we see a dressing room in a theatre. The composer (Ross Whyte) enters and takes the outer layers of wood off his piano so that its inner workings are laid bare. What about the inner workings and inside the people on stage? Will we see those too?
Him (Ramesh Rayappen) enters and begins his warm up with frantic, anxious energy. He warms up his hands and arms, acknowledging the language of gestures that is used.
Her (Emmanuelle Laborit) joins him. She is chic and disdainful in a little black dress. The two of them prepare for their performance. They could not be more different.
They transform their appearance to those of Commedia dell’Arte archetypes; him in white as Pierrot the pining, lovestruck clown; her glamorous as Columbine, in a red and gold dress. However, the characters and their relationship have already been established. As they begin their performance, the tension between Him and Her is apparent in their characters.
In fact, the relationship between the real performers is intimate and on point. They must deeply understand and trust each other to deliver such a synchronised performance. The music, composed and deftly played on the piano by Ross Whyte, brings the whole thing together and sometimes it seems as if all three performers are part of a single being.
The IVT in Paris is a space for exchange, meeting and discovery for the deaf and hearing. Meanwhile, the Tron Theatre Deaf Social is an initiative designed to build stronger connections between the Tron Theatre and the deaf community. Both actors are deaf, and they come from different countries with different languages, but the physical communication used in this play cuts across the language barrier between all of us. It was humbling to see the depth of story, character and relationship that can be expressed without verbal language. As a hearing person, my instinct is to applaud loudly at the end of the show, but the deaf members of the audience lead us in their more visual style of applause to show our appreciation for the actors.
These stock characters of Commedia dell’Arte have been around centuries and they still inform so much of our entertainment. It is delightful to see that they are still alive and bringing joy to audiences today.
Playing until 22nd October, https://www.tron.co.uk/shows/la-performance/
Reviewer: Wendy McEwan
Reviewed: 13th October 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★