Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Fahrenheit Twins - West Yorkshire Playhouse

The Fahrenheit Twins
Book: Michel Faber
Adapter: Told by an Idiot & Matthew Dunster
Director: Matthew Dunster
Reviewer: Nicola Harrison

'At the icy zenith of the world, far away from any other children, Tainto'lilth and Marko'cain knew no better than that life was bliss. Therefore, it was bliss.' (Michel Faber)

Michel Faber is a writer who has been described as unafraid of trying something different and can stretch the boundaries to achieve something powerful and compelling. He is not always a realist but he does write about things that are real. In this adaptation by 'Told by an Idiot' and Matthew Dunster, they have aimed to create the story in an original and theatrical way. In their productions, they produce work that is larger than life and tell stories in a style that is accessible to all.

In 'The Fahrenheit Twins', Tainto'lith and Marko'cain are brother and sister living on an excluded arctic exploration station with their anthropologist parents. They are essentially happy in their somewhat unusual existance, but all changes when their mother suddenly takes to her bed and they are forced to challenge 'what lies beyond?' They become caught up in a frenzy of how to stop time and although their mother tried to prepare them for adolescence, it is this they want to keep at bay. At the same time however, their inquisition spurs them on to face the challenges and consequences of loosing your innocence and facing the stark reality of adulthood. The book of knowledge used to record their life's events was once a tree and it is the tree that becomes a synonym for survival in the story, the tree being the oldest inhabitant of our planet. It is here you will rediscover one's roots and for eyes to be opened to reality and truth.

The setting for this story was enhanced by the stark, simplistic use of a revolving stage which was cleverly utilized in many different ways to show the transcendence of the passage of time, scene changes and also held a range of concealed props that kept appearing from seemingly nowhere! The costumes were in keeping with the set, layering whiteness upon white. Only subtle costume changes are made to the raw appearance of the duo in suitably clad snow suits, the purity of white, marking their innocence. The sound effects designed by Gareth Fry were very real and added intrinsic value and interpretation to the story. The lighting designed by Philip Gladwell also captured the atmosphere, showing sharp contrasts between lightness and darkness in keeping with the contrast of innocence and the loss of it. Under Matthew Dunster's direction, this play manages to interpret and present Faber's ideas rather well with the use of just two actors juxtaposed against all the elements.

The performances of Hayley Carmichael and Paul Hunter in this two-man show can be commended, as this 90 minute production has no let up. It runs without an interval as we follow their journey of discovery. Their swift character and costume changes intercepted with the set maintains the pace. At times however, it becomes a pantomime and it could be questioned whether it worked and the audience could take the play seriously. If counterbalanced by the fact that 'Told by an Idiot' revels in this 'larger than life' style of interpretation, then this isn't a criticism.

Overall, although rather bizarre it wasn't a disappointing experience. Great thought went into its production. It certainly appeals to a wide audience, its careful adaptation dealing simplistically with ideas such as those explored in Blake's Tales of Innocence and Experience. If you look beyond the presentation you will understand more of what Faber was trying to say.
Photos: Keith Pattison
Runs until Sat 17th Oct
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