Saturday, January 31, 2009

Halfway To A Half-Dressed Stage



Last night at The Cochrane, I saw a preview of a brand new piece by Nicola Chalmers. Staged in a manner reminiscent of a radio play, four speakers, surrounded by physical, sculptural, and sometimes cryptic extrapolations from the text, attempt to tell, retell, or maybe even foretell, a very black love story.

The atmosphere is tense and even threatening from the start, as the speakers vie for control in the telling, interrupting, contradicting and occasionally bullying each other. Lines of text circle each other through a schizoid power matrix, seeing themselves laughed off and rejected only to reemerge later, as proof positive in the sad and beautiful tale of our heroine's watery grave.

Rather than fragment though, the act of creation and dissection witnessed makes the text stronger and richer, as if it were being told from four vantage points at once (which of course it is) and the whole affair comes off as a sort of Stenian parlour game. Witty, poetic and yet strangely logical, Halfway To A Half-Dressed Stage is a bold and loving wrestling with language that takes its four sharply shaded speakers further than they seem comfortable with, revealing thoroughly good writing and brilliant characterisation.

It's as though Ms Chalmers tip-toed through a private collection of ceramics late one night and in the darkness knocked a priceless vase from its pedestal, horrified. Upon kneeling down to inspect the damage, the jagged fragments look to her, in the weak moonlight, more beautiful then they had ever done for the last 2,000 years. So she spreads them out, rearranges them like a puzzle in reverse, and leaves the pieces of the vase scattered on the floor, now a mosaic.

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