Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Scar Stories

Scar Stories by Patrizia Paolini
Reviewer: Honour Bayes

The premise for Scar Stories has the surreally sweet undertone of the French film Amelie - Patrizia Paolini has a scar on her chin and is on a quest to find a man with the same scar, acquired in the same way, so that she can kiss him. But Scar Stories is in no way a straight love story becoming instead an exploration into the question ‘why do we get scarred?’ Looking at both physical and psychological scarring Paolini’s story is mingled inextricably with those of the men she interviews in a free form piece of theatre which sends out powerfully visceral signals even if it lacks the defined edges to communicate them successfully.

Through a number of video interviews, played on an old TV with a basic Mike Leigh functionality which is at times charming and at others edgy, Paolini presents these men, their intimate stories interweaving with the constant presence of Radio Four bringing the news of the world onto a stage which also houses Paolini’s own automatic style of storytelling.

It is an interesting mix, and one which creates a very particular atmosphere which propitiates the idea of freeing the imagination and mind, of breaking out of defined and archaic social methods of communication and seeing ‘if something will happen’. But although this method succeeds in transporting experience and information to the audience through a process of osmosis, it is less successful at speaking directly to individuals and therefore the level of engagement is never really high enough.

This is a deep shame because Scar Stories is an incredibly intimate and vulnerable show; the image of each scarred man raising his head, revealing his jugular and then speaking about his first kiss is gorgeously probing and reminds us that there is magic in the smallest encounters. As soon as one enters Paolini immediately takes her audience in the palm of her hand, defying convention by asking people to leave if they want to and to let her know if something has happened at the end because it rarely does.

But this beautiful bubble of reality is burst as soon as she starts speaking her script, however apparently spontaneous it is, and she loses us. This is the crux of this show; it explores and plays with performance and human stories looking at that all important space in between just existing and living life but Paolini the performer is never able to do what Paolini the interviewer is so brilliant at; going for the jugular of her subject. It is this lack of getting straight answers in all their direct and painful glory that means the audience is unable to grasp onto anything throughout this piece, however freeform it is meant to be, and so are left a bit excluded from its journey. Her story is simple, she says, the implications less so; ultimately for all it’s tender magic one wishes she’d just stuck with the story and left the implications to those living them.

Scarr Stories runs at the BAC until Sat 28th March 2009
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