Ingenuity is a precious resource, viewed as the ability to apply fresh concepts to established norms, or to rework familiar aspects of popular culture. Think of how the world viewed common household objects after the advent of 1960s Pop Art.
Naiad Productions Ltd and its artistic director/producer Lara Genovese, have done just that in showcasing an evening of 15-minute plays inspired by international filmmakers who are renowned for their cinematic style – one which bears the director’s calling card – think of the measured villainy inherent to a Hitchcock film, or a Francis Ford Coppola opulent crime-family saga.
Naiad’s current production, Europe on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, pays homage to Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, arguably Spain’s most famous film director, and one with a huge cult following. It is the second in Naiad’s ‘Master Director’ series, the first, in 2017, was devoted to the Italian filmmaker Frederico Fellini. Given the current political climate, the themes in an Almodóvar film seem especially akin to the mayhem in the UK since the Brexit vote.
And if you are familiar with Almodóvar’s directorial style, one which often casts a hyper-real representation of human behaviour – with characters in a continual state of hysteria – but not too far from what one might experience when consumed by thoughts of revenge, or in the throes of love and desire – then you will thoroughly enjoy the six short plays which capture the intensity, colour and passion that saturates an Almodóvar production. Each is an homage to the influential Spanish director, proving that you don’t need cinematic expanse and surround sound to play an expansive Almodóvar character. It can be done just as effectively in a small theatrical space and with the right actors and creatives.
Pedro himself would have loved the use of bright-red scarves, scarlet wigs and killer-red lipstick to convey the violence of an impending death in Zombie Carmen (actors: Andrew P Stephen; Maria Maria Estévez-Serrano). Of the six vignettes, the most Almodóvar-like was Catalina (actors: Mischa Huijsmans; Sophie Olivia) with plot twists, high drama, shouts, pistols and wild imaginings.
Big emotions and wild gestures can easily fall into a mindless pastiche, especially when actors are playing such bombastic characters. It is a credit to the cast, writers and directors of each piece that they maintained the essence of an Almodóvar film, which is always about real people in real situations, without crossing the line into absurdity. And unlike a cinematic production, with a huge budget and expensive location shots, the entire evening was put together on a shoe-string budget.
Naiad Productions Ltd has spearheaded a theatrical premise that could – like the international filmmakers it celebrates – develop its own cult following. We look forward to the next evening of short plays in the Master Director series.
Review by Loretta Monaco
Guitarist: Francesco Rocco
by Evi Stamatiou; Directed by Evi Stamatiou
Cast: Andrew P Stephen; María Estévez-Serrano
by Nora Nadjarian
Directed by Evy Barry
Cast: Mischa Huijsmans; Sophie Olivia
THE MINI TURTLES
by Francis Grin
Directed by Lara Genovese
Cast: Sarita Plowman
NARCOMAMBO SAFE & SOUND
by Roberto Trippini
Directed by Fumi Gomez
Cast: Marta Luné; Juan Echenique
A GIRL HOLDING THE HAND OF A GIRL
by Ioana Batis
Directed by Clemmie Reynolds
Cast: Nathalie Czarnecki; Rebecca Hands Wicks, María Estévez-Serrano
SI VUELVES TU
by Emma Zadow
Directed by Adam Hypki
Cast: Lily Cooper; Sharon Drain
Suitable for ages 12+
Sunday 25th – Monday 26th February 2018 at 8:00pm
Old Red Lion Theatre Pub
418 St John St, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 4NJ
Sunday 25 February, Monday, 26 February @ 8pm