Stockholm

Thu 20th – Sat 22nd October 2011

reviews

Danielle Masterton

at 10:38 on 21st Oct 2011

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Todd and Kali are the perfect couple. When they dance, people move aside to watch them. But behind closed doors, their stark, vacuous home is wrought with the tensions of imperfection and distrust.

Boldly danced but not quite so boldly acted, Emma Cave and Paul Moss’s characters grew in substance as the short play unfolded. Nonetheless, the contemporary dance dexterously conveyed the emotion and intensity of Stockholm. Cave and Moss’s acrobatics brought to light the very physical aspect of the play and of the protagonists’ relationship. Through the cleverly synchronised choreography during the birthday meal preparations, it is as if their bodies merge into one: one powerful, efficient, passionate, entangled being.

The austerity of the set, carefully arranged in shades of startling white and staring magnolia, is a canvas for this couple’s destructive relationship. Bare bulbs dangle and ominous red paintings adorn the backdrop. The use of lighting in this production was particularly striking, dividing and uniting the characters. The flashback of their first encounter is bathed in red light, as if seen through rose-tinted glasses. But instead of rose, we see red - a clever nod towards the brutality yet to come. Likewise, the unsettling flashes of monologue and duologue were highlighted by spotlight. Thus these abrupt excerpts of speech stand clearly apart from the general progression of the play. Ambiguous but charged with psychological insight, the white light isolates moments when their impenetrable facade of ‘complete and utter eternal happiness’ falters.

The use of dance later lent itself quickly and skillfully to the representation of domestic violence. A disconcerting juxtaposition. Cave and Moss portrayed a very convincing and brutal scene of the eruption of Kali’s ‘retro-jealousy’ and deeply rooted mistrust. The powerful expression in the actors’ dancing abilities (particular mention must go to Emma Cave’s performance) truly brought another dimension to Stockholm. Kitchen knives flash and glasses crash as the couple’s tango turns terrifying, a glimpse of hands clasped around the neck of the other remains imprinted on my memory.

Though this is not the first time the audience has seen the flash of silverware. On Kali and Todd’s first date, an intimate dinner becomes even more so and a knife represents a phallic symbol. When Kali’s passion or her rage burst forth, a knife always seems close at hand. Whilst a frightening motif within in the play, it is also a mundane everyday object placed as a stark reminder of the realities of domestic violence. Perhaps Stockholm is intending to tell us that love is quite literally a double edged sword?

The calm after the storm in Stockholm comes as an unsettling contrast to the climax of violent behaviour just before. This hiatus that follows was particularly well-interpreted by Moss, as he conveyed the frightening reality that such violence can be followed by such deep feelings of belief, forgiveness and love. Clearly inspired by the ‘Stockholm Syndrome,’ these two lovers are hostages of their own emotions. It is difficult however to decipher who is the victim and who is the aggressor, both too in love and too distrustful to leave the other. The ambiguity of the play makes it all the more captivating and Moss and Cave successfully portray these complex emotions without condemning them.

Ephemeral and evocative, Stockholm has left me craving more. Cave and Moss bring the intense and impenetrable relationship of Kali and Todd to an impressive crescendo of dance, violence and sentimental blackmail. Prisoners of their own situation, the actors give the audience a fly on the wall insight into the tensions and fears of their private, not so perfect, life. As Cave and Moss exited off stage, I was left fascinated, wanting to watch it all over again.

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Carrie Anne Walton

at 10:43 on 21st Oct 2011

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Never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo, or in this case Carly and her Todd.

Our actors, Emma Cave and Paul Moss put on a sterling performance in this short but emotive play by Bryony Lavery and provided me with a fabulous introduction to Durham Student Theatre which convinces me that the £7 per year membership to DST I paid upon collecting my ticket is going to be worth every penny.

The pair work together almost effortlessly and with impeccable timing throughout when it comes to complex choreography and synchronised recitals; you’d be forgiven for thinking the two were a couple off-stage too (are they?). The scenery in which the tumultuous relationship is played out is simple and clinical looking save for a trio of pictures on the wall, each a worsening degradation of the former, indicative of the emotional gradations which our couple sway between regularly perhaps?

They regularly break into choreographed sequences; sometimes as actual dancing sometimes just acting out life scenes and on one instance as an argument turned physical. The choreography works beautifully in showing the ‘togetherness’ of the couple even when in the throes of violence and the use of hot candle wax and knives would cause a sharp intake of breath were you not absolutely convinced of the synchronicity. At some points, the choreography actually speaks louder than the dialogue and is an integral part of the playing out of Carly and Todd’s situation.

The premise of the play comes across with relative ease. The couple are in love, no one can argue that on seeing them, but the love is beginning to rot them on the insides; the violence makes way for the pity and empathy synonymous with Stockholm syndrome (upon which the play is based around). At times, I found the audience reactions to be contradictory to my own. Laughter at things I considered to be instances of ironic tragedy made me wonder whether I was reading too much into the story or whether perhaps the tragedy just wasn’t emoted strongly enough for some to perceive.

If I were forced to provide a criticism of the performance it would just be that some of the dialogue felt rushed. Much of the dialogue was quite pertinent to the whole feel and atmosphere of the play and deserved to be expressed allowing adequate time for the audience to fully grasp that feeling. This is a very minor criticism though which in all honesty I had to be too overly pernickety for even my own comfort in order to find.

Overall, I found this to be an exciting and enthralling introduction to what I hope will be a long and devoted relationship to DST.

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