Compagnie of Strangers

Unity Theatre, Hope Place
20th November 2010

Reviewed by Sarah Ryan

The gods seemed almost against us last Saturday evening when technical problems delayed the UK premiere of Compagnie of Strangers by almost an hour!

Whilst waiting, Moomsteatern’s manager, Kjell Stjernholm explained the company’s ethos, which put the emphasis on artistic goals rather than highlighting the fact that the company employs actors with learning disabilities. This emphasis on the creative process provided us with a performance that was both intriguing and thought provoking and certainly worth the wait!

Using minimal props, set on an empty stage, the production effectively created a dreamlike, macabre atmosphere combining dance, mime, puppetry and music.

Reminding me of Russian silhouette art, the story showed us the journey of an old man who moves out of his wheelchair and reverts to when he was a boy. Many of the images were not always as they appeared, with seemingly cute old ladies producing a variety of weapons from their bags and showing a taste for human flesh, while podgy babies emerged from a clutch of eggs, adding to the visual effects!

Strange sound effects and graceful balletic movement added to the mysterious, dreamlike quality and the use of mime and puppetry was at times quite moving.

The decision to dispense with dialogue and use a hybrid combination of sounds known as ’Swengeer’ worked well on the whole, as it added to the sense of the bizarre, though sometimes it was a little hard to connect the various threads of the story.

Visually and technically stunning, the production captivated the audience and the ambiguity gave us a lot to ponder on afterwards in the bar!

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Comment left by Les Scaife on 28th November, 2010 at 11:55
It's wonderfull to hear about REAL stories with a mixture of humour and human tragedy. The same stories can be interpreted in differnt ways depending on who is recording them. Hidden Herstories are the real thing and have an impact on what disabled people need in their life. Hope commissioners of services take note.