Theatre reviews: Water Stain | The Weaver | Leonce and Lena
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman reviews: Water Stain, The Weaver and Leonce and Lena, all at EICC (venue 150), reviewed by Mark Fisher
In my notebook I have written “gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous” – my response to the moment in Water Stain (★★★★★) by Armazém Cia de Teatro when all five performers get their accordions and, to the accompaniment of guitarist Ricco Viana, play a mesmerising tune.
It represents the music that 40-year-old Laura can hear in her head. Played by Patricia Selonk, she is a married woman whose teenage head injury has recently returned to haunt her. Fluid is building up on her brain with hallucinatory consequences.
It sounds like a grim subject, but rather like Anthony Neilson’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia, which gave theatrical form to the mania and depression of a bipolar illness, the play is more interested in the sensory pleasure Laura’s condition brings than its attendant problems. She seems to like the hyper reality, the dreamy escapes from normality and the journeys back to her distant childhood. Above all, the music she hears seems to be a part of her, a defining characteristic, one she is desperate to record in her father’s old reel-to-reel. It is distressing to her husband (not least because he was unaware of her medical history) but for her, it’s a private paradise.
And, in Paulo de Moraes’s consummate production, it is a very watery one. The fluid building up in Laura’s head finds a parallel in the play’s slippery stories: a fish mysteriously washed up 5km from the sea, a father drowned in a boating accident and imagery involving war ships and underwater swims. On a set also designed by Moraes, the water splashes in the pool that fills half the stage and bubbles in blue projections on the back wall.
It is an unexpected treat to discover such an accomplished production arriving with little fanfare on the Fringe. And it is not the only one. The EICC is hosting a mini-season of four Brazilian shows. I have yet to catch Kabul, but if it’s as strong as the other three, it will be well worth seeing.
Also strikingly staged is The Weaver (★★★) by Caixa do Elefante, a piece of up-market magic theatre inspired by weaving myths. It’s a wordless performance in which a woman in a red dress creates a world around her. A ball of wool defies gravity; glasses, bottles and chairs appear out of thin air; a puppet prince emerges from the swish of a blanket. It’s a little slow, but beautifully presented and would be enjoyed by children as much as adults.
We tend to credit the punk-like spirit of theatrical subversion to Alfred Jarry and his scatological Ubu Roi. But that play premiered in 1896, a year after Georg Buchner’s Leonce and Lena (★★★★) – and that was nearly 60 years after the playwright wrote it. This is a play about Prince Leonce of the Kingdom of Popo and Princess Lena of the Kingdom of Pipi who escape rather than face an arranged marriage. As any German scholar will tell you, Popo is playground-speak for “bottom” and Pipi for “pee”.
Accordingly, the young Teatro Ma¡quina company stages this satirical romance with a nightclub energy and a playful air of irreverence. It is performed on a raised platform, somewhere between a boxing ring and a nightclub, with the audience sitting close up on three sides. Dressed like they’re ready for a game of football or a night of serious clubbing, the actors tell the story to the accompaniment of a DJ. Their props are little more than a few rolls of bubble-wrap; the wildlife sound effects are of their own making. It adds a note of eccentricity and fun to the play, with its adolescent existentialist musings and fairytale plot. They don’t convince you it is superior to Buchner’s better-known Danton’s Death and Woyzeck, but they do impress you with their vibrant spirit.
Originally published in The Scotsman