Richard Downes came away deeply moved by 'Andre & Dorine' by Basque company Kulunka Teatro - which played at the Purcell Room, Southbank from 26-29 January - as part of the London International Mime Festival.
My friend Joan's mum, is reputed to have said; 'Life is but a vale of tears' a comfort to offer to her children when they are in need of touching heaven.
Andre Gorz was a social philosopher who thought about work conditions and rights that could accrue from a kinder capitalism. A latter work was 'Letter To D'. D being his wife Dorine.
Kulunka Teatro are a Spanish mask theatre company who have realised much success in a short time through a mime version of this letter. Their intention is to go beyond the word to find forms of communication that are far more inclusive, accessible and achievable.
For me the primary form of communication is the word - music is worth little without a song. I use nothing but word in this review. How could I possibly sit through 65 minutes of theatre without word.
Andre is old. We see him finish a great work in spite of D's irritable, irascible, boring ways. He types. She bows her cello. He gets narked, antagonised at the ritualised behaviours found within marriage. You act like this. I act like that. Boring, behavioural responses. Why would anyone carry on with a life like this? What is there within partnerships that make them important. What does Dorine see in Andre. He's brash, cocky, self important, ego driven. Doom resides in life. Earthly sorrows are seldom leavened by happiness but somehow, somewhere, sometime, magic happens. With a head movement or a small gesture, expressionless mask faces bring laughter into the room.
We are being amused by that which is not funny. As Shockheaded Peter gave permission to laugh at child abuse so now we are tickled by the decay of the old, descents into sickness; specifically Alzheimers Disease.
It is at this point Kulunka's three actors take off as they take us into an exploration of memory raising three simultaneous enquiries; what do we hold our memories in, where do we find them and what do our memories hold.
Experiences open before us. Andre still writes, remembering as he finishes his letter tp Dorine. Its not as great as the work he finished earlier but its far from trite. Memories are extracted from the photographs that hang on the wall, they are mined from the ore of clothing, artefacts in the room. Actors seem to find a memory even within a line of the face, a gesture. Memory is all around us. But it can go wrong. Common every day tales can be viewed as something else. It is not so far from terrifying when Dorine fails to recognise Andre who is growing, becoming another side of himself, a compassionate carer, able to re-discover the love he felt in earlier days, a man who can walk an extra mile.
The show finishes with dance. Dorine plays Andre as if he is her cello, as if she has played him all her life, as if she was the one in control. It is a final mystery played out from memory and the play finishes leaving an impression that Dorine dies.
I leave devastated. Later I go home and read up on Gorz. It would seem that on Dorine's death that he killed himself. Villagers found them lying together. I cry again; deeply affected.
This is my final sorrow. I'm going to phone Joan to find out what her mum said next.