★★★★★ In The Beginning Was The End // ★★★★ Playing Cards: Spades by Robert Lepage
Here at To Do List HQ, we pride ourselves on bringing you the best offbeat theatre events in London – and these two beauties are no exception!
We hate writing bad reviews, so we’re delighted to say that both Dreamthinkspeak’s ‘In The Beginning Was The End’ & Robert Lepage’s ‘Playing Cards: Spades’ were BLOODY BRILLIANT!
‘In The Beginning Was The End’ – Dreamthinkspeak | Somerset House & Environs | Until 30 March | Various Times | £25
To Do List previewed this way back at the end of last year, and then heard so much about it in the press that we were a little bit nervous of ‘OVERHYPE’ as we loitered in the lush waiting room at Somerset House. Thankfully, our expectations were exceeded, and we can honestly say that Dreamthinkspeak have stolen the immersive theatre crown from Punchdrunk.
This huge-scale theatre installation experience tells a cautionary tale of robotic technology and modern consumerism through vivid, intensely visual metaphor. Set pieces with actors in various languages are interwoven with vast, empty science laboratories, which are there for an eager audience to explore.
The imagery and sheer scale of the work is awe-inspiring, fusing sculpture, live physical performance, film, text and thematic music – producing a cornucopia of thought-provoking images.
As well as the overarching moral themes of the show, there is a playful and humorous visual nature to the films & performance sequences which is unseen in a lot of dystopian, immersive theatre of late. The sense of creator/director Tristan Sharp’s homage to Da Vinci or the Book of Revelations was a little missing but it didn’t matter – we loved the sense of impending doom with a wry, sarcastic eye, which ran through the night.
So, yeah, we loved it!
Another of our preview picks, we fought against so-bad-you-could-scream traffic in Central London to get to the Roundhouse in time for Robert Lepage’s latest: a mind-boggling interpretation of the theatre in the round, a captivating exploration of the theme of war told through several intertwining story-lines set in Las Vegas at the onset of the US invasion of Iraq.
The staging is headache-inducingly genius – without giving too much away, suffice to say the perfectly circular stage transfigures and transforms through the use of pulleys, trapdoors, rotations and who-knows-what-else. And the ace in the pack? Despite its intricate workings, the staging does not outshine the players – a small cast playing multiple roles, each captivating, fleshed-out and three-dimensional.
A Canadian couple in Vegas for a quickie marriage, a recovering gambling addict, a team of bickering, bitching hotel staff, and a mysterious, alluring lothario – these are the characters of this complex web of strife (both internal and external), and of course the Danish soldier with deep misgivings about his colleagues and their motives. In turn, and with every shift of the stage from bedroom, to bar, to swimming pool, to desert, through uncountable variations, each storyline is given space to grow, to breathe, and to explore.
A truly invigorating theatre experience – style, yes, but substance in spades too.
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like free, cheap & offbeat London, especially: cabaret, art, theatre, pop-ups, eating out, quirky films, museums, day trips, social enterprise & much more.