Wednesday, 9 September 2009

They Only Come at Night - Lowry Theatre, Salford

They Only Come at Night: Resurrection
Created by Slung Low
Reviewer: David Leith

Slung Low, 2008 winners of the prestigious Samuel Beckett award are currently premiering their new piece; ‘They Only Come at Night: Resurrection’ at the Lowry Theatre, Salford. Slung Low have a history of using unconventional spaces and this premier certainly fits the mould. The initial openings of this piece introduces the audience to a captivating site specific concept but as the show commences this quickly turns into a crass and confusing performance.

On arrival, audience are asked to wear a wrist band on which is to be stated; name, blood type and next of kin. Entering a VIP room (an elaborately disguised Lowry studio space) a remarkable set presents itself; an elegant and impressive setup of screens and multimedia all in honour of the launch of celebrated graphic novel “They Only Come at Night” by Milo McKenzie which shares the show’s daunting title.

Following the authors introduction, an un-nerving set of power surges invade the space and the VIP launch is thrown into disarray. With the ushers averting the audience not to panic, the plot unfolds and we learn the novel is not all that it seems. Rather than a visual piece of fiction, the novel is an account of real life events, which then unfold before our very eyes leading the protagonist to his lumbered fate; he is the mark of Cain. As vampires intrude the evening’s festivities, we are introduced to some interesting physical sequences by the creatures of the night. However, such an invasion becomes lost and somewhat comical due to the uncharismatic delivery of the principal actors.

Rather than allowing the audience to experiment and discover the unfolding narrative, what is an initially enticing story descends into an unconvincing display of ham-horror panic. The performers disguised as the Lowry’s own ushers, walking back and forth stating “stay safe, stay together” removes any of the audiences own sense of intuition. With an intriguing story and elaborate design concept, Slung Low should have had more faith in the opportunities of site specific theatre and allowed the story to naturally unfold, rather than holding the audiences hand at every turn. This combined with some very poor sight-lines and thoughtless direction (a long scene was delivered with Milo seated, leaving him invisible to all but the front row of audience members) added to the frustration of what could have been an exciting and innovative performance.

After the impressive initial introduction to the space and a superb filmic dimension, the stage seemed to be set for a total theatre experience. However this was then sadly juxtaposed with sloppy and uncharismatic live delivery from the principal characters. Slung Low’s ethos is “to use 21st century technology to achieve the oldest of artistic aims...a good story well told.” However beneath the admirable set and impressive film instillations lies a weak script, something essential to good story telling. Although Slung Low has to be given credit for this innovative theatrical undertaking, the weaknesses of performances and script unfortunately prevented this ambitious project from reaching its full potential.

Runs until 12th Sept
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