29th March 2007
The David Glass Ensemble is always worth seeing and this revival of their early 1990s production of Mervyn Peake’s gothic trilogy proves to be no exception. Although their style of physical theatre was unusual and groundbreaking fifteen or so years ago this type of performance is now fairly commonplace.
Peake’s cult trilogy about Titus Groan is a strange gothic history of a young man coming to maturity and rejecting the stifling conformity and ritual that blights his life in the crumbling building that is Gormenghast. As well as Titus the story is peopled by a myriad of eccentric, deviant and grotesque characters.
This adaptation by John Constable relates key events from the mammoth story. They are presented in a style mixing physicality, puppetry, movement and music that successfully recreates Peake’s imaginary world, bringing out the darkness at its heart. The gothic, somewhat blowsy style of production matches Peake’s prose perfectly.
Each of the major characters is realised in a convincing manner and there is a satisfying mixture of humour and darkness. In particular Phillips Pellew’s depiction of the angular Flay creaking around the gargantuan, echoing interior of Gormenghast is pleasingly grotesque. Elisa de Grey and Sally Mortemore make for an entertaining Clarice and Cora and the latter doubles as an imposing and gothic Gertrude Countess of Groan. Eric MacLennan’s Dr Prunesquallor was perhaps a little too much like a character from the TV comedy The League of Gentlemen at times but altogether this was a fine ensemble performance.
At the conclusion of the play, the flooding of the castle and fight to the death between Titus and his arch enemyl Steerpike is achieved with the aid of a giant white sheet and stylised movement: it is suitably climactic.
Although the performance is possibly a bit too large at times for the space it’s in – sometimes a little distance from the action would have been desirable, in order to appreciate the full visual impact of what was on the stage – this is an entertaining and satisfying revival of one of the David Glass Ensemble’s seminal works.
BAC until 15th April