'Translunar Paradise' - Theatre Ad Infinitum
Barbican | London International Mime Festival
'I wanted to create a piece that dealt with these matters [finding happiness after a loss] – that looked at how one can possibly let go and move forward.' These are the optimistic words in actor/director George Mann's liner notes. It wasn't long into Translunar Paradise before this mission was evident, and by the finale its success was certain.
Theatre Ad Infinitum's latest production is performed by a talented trio combining the techniques of classic mask work, dance, Feldenkrais movement, Lecoq physical training, circus skills and cabaret. These ingredients wove together into an engaging, entertaining, and contemplative experience. The underlying tension between melancholy and joy was established from the beginning as the full house entered the Barbican's Pit. Seated centre-stage was dear old William (Mann in a wonderful mask made by technical effects artist Victoria Beaton), staring longingly into the floorboards as the complimentary notes from Kim Heron's accordion ambled past. The next 70 minutes unfolded a love story between William and Rose (his masked female counterpart, played by Deborah Pugh) marked by courtships, career choices, wartime sufferings, failed pregnancies, and difficult bereavements.
Even though a story of love, life, death and longing is not necessarily covering new ground, the company kept our interest piqued with their visual storytelling. They have duly applied their Lecoq/LISPA training in developing a physical style for this piece which is at times fluid, danced and clowny, and at other times carries a staccato effect as if we are watching the action unfold in a series of family snapshots.
The two actors are continually drawn into their masks and pulled back out, flowing between the parallel time-frames of the story. This is a technique that does however produce the few cons of the production. Ever so irregularly, this frame effect appeared less natural and more forced, drawing an otherwise absent attention to itself – but these moments were fleeting, and were duly carried away as we were serenaded by Ms. Heron's many variations on her vocalised themes and by the accordion-driven soundtrack and sound effects.
And in the end, the structure pays out: as I'm always a sucker for a good bookend, I was pleased with the young Rose's walk off stage near the end that nostalgically referenced her older self's ethereal exit in the beginning.
Theatre Ad Infinitum is already well-decorated with honours from its international appearances, and it is apparent why. This wordless experience speaks of universal themes that can undoubtedly be appreciated by all for many performances to come.