Charles on Charles Bridge

Fri 22nd February 2013

reviews

Patty McCabe

at 10:56 on 23rd Feb 2013

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Charles on Charles Bridge tells the tale of two young people who meet once a year in Prague. Emily and Charles narrate their own story of their annual encounters, reflecting on the past and on their relationship with one another. I must admit that when I read the plot synopsis of Charles on Charles Bridge, I was hoping for a light-hearted, innocent and sweetly told love story filled with honesty and the tribulations of a young love that has to grow up. The best way to sum up the performance I found myself watching, however, is that I found it to be completely lacking in substance.

The foundation of the problem can be traced back to the script. As the play only had two characters, a huge task fell on the shoulders of Emily (Lucy Hart) and Charles (Rob Collins) to carry the play. There was little in their words or actions that gave me a particular reason to form any attachment to the characters who at times appeared blank and at other times a little awkward and forced. As the play was set over a number of years, I would have assumed that there would have been some development yet in a play that claimed to be ‘sprinkled with coming-of-age elements’, I found the characterisation to be disappointingly static. I do not think it would be fair for me to reflect on the acting talents of Hart and Collins as I don’t think they were given an awful lot to work with. Whilst I appreciate the complexities of staging an inside-out narrative, it did not entirely work and just about stopped short of appearing like a farcical attempt at a voice over.

On a more positive note, I thought the setting probably captured more accurately what the play had intended to achieve. The use of gentle lighting set a calm and neutral tone and simplicity of the set placed emphasis on the two characters. The music throughout the performance added to the atmosphere of romance although it sometimes meant that Lucy Hart’s voice was a little hard to hear. Whilst the simplicity of the stage served its purpose, unfortunately the characters were not robust enough to endure the strain of the attention this focused upon them.

I take no pleasure in saying this about entries into the Durham Drama Festival but frankly, Charles on Charles Bridge was a chore to watch. I do not wish to undermine the efforts of those involved as writing, directing and performing a play from scratch is no easy task yet I am struggling to find many redeeming qualities in this performance. I felt as though in trying to give the play an understated and honest tone, the characters were stripped of the emotion and dynamism that one normally associates with theatre. This is not to say that every love story has to be pumped full of the violence and passion of Romeo and Juliet but to steal a line from Emily herself, there was just no theatrical story.

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