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Review of The Marked by Theatre Témoin

The Marked by Theatre Témoin at Ovalhouse London
The Marked by Theatre Témoin
(Image courtesy Idil Sukan)

A near-absolute suspension of disbelief is required to fully appreciate The Marked, in which the lines between fantasy and reality become so blurred that Jack (Bradley Thompson) is as confused as I am. The fantasy element is emphasised with varying degrees of success. But I can’t help yet another call for theatrical creatives to be more sparing in their use of slow-motion movement. The ‘final battle’ in Les Miserables or a comical scene in The 39 Steps are examples of where slo-mo works very well. Here, it happens too often and, as far as I could discern, didn’t add much to proceedings. A simple light change would indicate a change of scene more than sufficiently. Additionally, there were too many short scenes, delivered at one point at a breakneck pace, such that I struggled to keep up with the show.

Completing our trio of central characters are Pete (Tom Stacy) and Sophie (Dorie Kinnear), the latter with child. Quite what their purpose is in the story, as with so much in this rather unique world, is uncertain. What is clear is that the show is very physical in parts and relies more on movement than traditionally theatrical dialogue to put its points across. It’s a watchable play in this regard – indeed, one cannot help but pay attention and watch it, because to pay attention only to what is being said would mean missing out on much.

Technically speaking, then, the script is nothing to write home about. Periods of silence are occasionally uncomfortably long, and more often than not punctuated by the sort of tortuous and tinny music that got on my nerves. Thankfully, the relative lack of melody meant the tunes were wholly unmemorable and failed to stick in my head. I should also point out that the music was, to be fair, played at a suitable volume. The use of masks creating additional, albeit periphery, characters, added to the general sense of Jack’s reverie, as did the use of puppetry, which was inventive and charming, if repetitive.

The heavy reliance on audience interpretation leads me to draw two salient conclusions. One is that this is most certainly not a preachy show, despite looking at the subject of homelessness. The other is that the audience, while being taken on a journey, are not all on the exact same one. An example, if you please: a character ends up drawing blood. Some chortle, mostly at the way in which fake blood is depicted on stage, and for others (like me) violence and its consequences outweigh any comical element. Still others chuckle nervously, unsure which position to take.

I found one scene particularly jarring, and more specifically, one element within that one scene. It seems to equate heavy drinking with homelessness, or perhaps the other way around, which is an overly simplistic and unfair assessment of the problems faced by people in such circumstances. Looking at the production as a whole, however, given the subject matter, the show provides hard-hitting as well as lighter moments. In the end, though, it is simply too chaotic and busy, busy, busy. With a lot of ideas and creativity in it, it could do with some stripping back: sometimes less is more.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

As a boy, Jack lived in a world of monsters and invisible guardians, as he fought to protect the people he loved. Now grown, his life on the streets of London is less fantastical. But when a ghost from his past turns up, Jack must harness the power of forgotten myths to defeat her.

The Marked by Theatre Témoin
A haunting, mystical wonderland inspired by real-life stories of homelessness.
Suitable for ages 12+ (swearing and some violence)
Thu 13 – Sat 22 October 2016 7.30pm (no performances Sun or Mon) Matinees Sat 15, Tues 18 & Sat 22 Oct 2pm
http://www.ovalhouse.com/

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