The Waves

Thu 22nd – Sat 24th November 2012

reviews

Patty McCabe

at 08:39 on 23rd Nov 2012

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Another Soup’s production of Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Waves’ is an ambitious project to say the least. ‘The Waves’ is a story told from the inside out. The novel follows a group of friends from their youth through to middle age and their story is told not through speech or actions, but through their thoughts. The complexities of adapting a novel that is ultimately a challenge to the form of the traditional novel itself should not be underestimated and for even attempting such a task, director Dave Spencer should be congratulated.

The setting of Bede Chapel was an unconventional choice for an unconventional production. Though it has relevance in terms of time period (both the novel and the chapel are products of the 1930s), I was not entirely convinced by the choice. Initially, echoes made speech difficult to understand though admittedly it became clearer as the production progressed, most likely because one became accustomed to it. Occasionally the audience’s vision could be obscured by the pews when the actors and dancers were lying on the floor. The use of lighting to reflect both the time of day and the moods of the characters, in particular when Jinny (Idgie Beau) descends into darkness as she walks backwards across the stage, was masterful and it is hard to believe that Kacey Courtney stepped in at the last minute.

In its transition onto stage, the third person narration that begins each section has been replaced by music and dancers. I agree with the decision not to simply read out loud these sections and the use of music (the score was composed by Jo Turner) captured the cycle of nature and the passage of time for the stage as these sections do in the novel. The use of dancers (Sandra Chan and Monika Kawai) is something that I did not understand. This could be down to my ignorance of dance though there was something almost forced about their presence on stage that added a slight awkwardness to the production. This said, however, their presence in Bernard’s (Mike Clarke) ‘summing up’ scene did add to the violence of the scene; the coupling of aggressive music and the dancers’ slapping of the floor served up Bernard’s violent eruption convincingly. If it was not for this final scene, I would be tempted to dismiss the dancers as an unnecessary piece of pretension.

Whilst all the cast were strong, Jess Groocock’s performance as Rhoda was exceptional. Her quivering voice and frail gesturing gave the impression that she was ill at ease with her own physical body and one completely believed her when she uttered the line ‘this clumsy ill-fitting body’. The physical dichotomy between Rhoda and Jinny (Idgie Beau) – who indulges her physicality and moves across the stage with confidence and ease – is a new dimension brought to the story through its transition onto stage. Neville (Chris Yeates) was perhaps a little whiny for my taste though I appreciate that is a perfectly adequate interpretation of his character and unlike the other characters, in particular Susan (Steffi Walker), his voice did not age with his character. Ultimately, to give characters that have only existed as a series of sense-impressions a physical presence is no mean feat and whilst not perfect, the cast did a superb job in completing an immense task.

The adaptation of ‘The Waves’ for the stage is an ambitious project and ultimately Another Soup’s production, if perhaps a little unrefined in places, is something to be admired. There is a habit these days of reading modernist literature with a detached tone, almost a monotonous tone. It was delightful to see that no-one fell into this trap during this production. At no point was I unconvinced of the characters’ affinity with their words and this, for me, should be the ultimate challenge of removing ‘The Waves’ from the comfort of its pages to the stage. It is a challenge that was accepted and overcome.

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