Friday, 11 March 2011

Keepers - Contact Theatre, Manchester

Creators: The Plasticine Men
Reviewer: Ian Winterton

1801. A lighthouse standing sentry over the Smalls, a stretch of water 22-miles off the coast of Pembrokeshire is home to Thomas and Thomas, its keepers. Senior Thomas is dedicated and dour, while his companion is a day-dreamer; he’s as interested in aiding ailing seabirds as he is safeguarding sailors.

The promise of this claustrophobic scenario is realised by a strong, slightly surreal script, but what elevates it to the level of mini-masterpiece is its rendering as a piece of bravura physical theatre. With only two chairs, a ladder and a trapdoor, Newbury-based The Plasticine Men, manage to recreate the keepers’ environment through mime so fully that this reviewer isn’t sure he didn’t hallucinate waves crashing over railings at one point.

The two astounding performers are backed up by an incredibly rich soundscape – everything from the squeak as they polish the windows to a roaring gale – to which their every move is choreographed. Add to this an inventive staging – the scenes switch so often that this most theatrical of experiences seems at time almost cinematic; it’s like watching a film you can’t quite see, or a radio drama you sort of can…

The imagination well and truly unlocked during the first half of the play, one’s brain is primed for the story to lurch into the arena of madness, as one Thomas is drowned and the other, with no hope of being rescued, starts to lose his mind. Unsettling, funny and, ultimately, both moving and beautiful.

A hit at 2010’s Edinburgh Fringe and well-deserved winner of many awards, Keepers is a truly unique piece that will haunt your dreams for many months to come…

Touring UK until 9 April 2011. Details at:
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