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Review of TRINITY at Peckham’s Asylum

TrinitySuch was the attempted eeriness of the piped in background noise (I couldn’t exactly call it music) as the audience filed in for Trinity that someone couldn’t help but look around to see if anything was going on, curious but not in the least bit frightened. After just a minute or two of this incessant whirring and loud buzzing, I began to get the feeling that this was going to be rather more pretentious than strictly necessary. Put it this way: I wish I had brought along the sort of ear muffs used on construction sites.

It was a good choice of venue for a performance of this nature. Now known as ‘Asylum’, the Caroline Garden’s Chapel, as it was originally called, was home to the Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution, ‘licensed victualler’ being the formal name for pub landlords. The name ‘asylum’ is to be taken to mean ‘sanctuary’ or ‘refuge’ rather than a place of residence for psychiatric patients. Bombed at some point, as so many places were, during World War Two, it is on the Historic England (formerly English Heritage) list of buildings at risk.

I mention all this for two reasons – firstly, many of the locals in the audience who live within walking distance were aware of the imposing venue but didn’t know it is now used for performances and exhibitions (and weddings). Secondly, fragile and in need of refurbishment, the venue is somewhat like some of the characters depicted in this production. One in particular, dressed all in black and shuffling slowly with the aid of a long, thick tree branch that served as a walking stick, unassisted, seems to suggest that not enough is being done to help the aged.

In fact, this short performance seems to suggest a lot of things. Such is its vagueness – its deliberate lack of clarity – that there are probably as many conclusions to be teased out of this bizarre production as there are members of the audience. The almost total absence of dialogue – the only detectable words were from a religious song, probably the Magnificat – spoke volumes, as it were: the voices of women have not been heard over the centuries.

Rather than assert any given reasons why, or offer any possible solutions, the performance merely portrays various women in miscellaneous states of distress, oppression or struggle. But the lack of character development is most disappointing. They come, they go, they reincarnate quickly into someone else. Who were they? It’s difficult to have any empathy with people one knows nothing, or next to nothing, about.

The production plodded along like a London bus stuck in traffic. Points of inactivity, albeit for dramatic effect, were too long. A veil is used, then another, then yet another (this was not, I hasten to add, a variation on the Dance of the Seven Veils), as if the audience didn’t get the point the first time. Women have, historically, been largely ignored and not been given anywhere near an appropriate level of respect and visibility. But after a while, the repetitive nature of the show means it loses all the poignancy it had to begin with, eventually becoming a self-indulgent ‘woe is me’ festival of gloom.

Whenever there was significant movement, it was least choreographed well. As to what it was definitively all about, based purely on what I had seen, I couldn’t possibly say, and not for fear of revealing spoilers. An interesting but impenetrable production.

2 gold stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

TRINITY questions the ethics and politics involved in the representation, mutation and transformation of the female form in our collective visual consciousness. Creating a highly visceral visual landscape with an immersive sound experience that explores otherness, this production features sound by Demetrio Castellucci and light by Darren Johnston.

TRINITY is an offsite event at Asylum, Caroline Garden’s Chapel, London SE15 2SQ.

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