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Review: The Good, The God and The Guillotine

Iona Douglas reviews Proto-type Theatre’s The Good, The God and The Guillotine at Contact Theatre

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Based on Albert Camus’s 1942 novel ‘L’Etranger’, Prototype Theatre’s The Good, The God and the Guillotine, directed by Andrew Westerside, is advertised as ‘a show that steals its style from the gig, the opera and the recital’, and the company’s collaboration with the Manchester Metropolitan University Laptop Ensemble (MMULE) certainly captures the absurdity of the novel. However, a theatrical element is missing, and I would not advise seeing the play if you are after ‘an easy watch’. As innovative and technologically proficient as the play may be it is often difficult to engage.

The action takes place behind a curtain of gauze upon which all thirteen chapter names are projected, as well as Adam York Gregory’s mesmerising animations. The veil imbued the performance with a cinematic quality and combined with Rebecca M K Makus’ lighting boxes really created the sense of being at a gig.

‘Chapter One, A Long Walk’ creates an aural nightmare that is both seductive and terrifying. The performers’ chilling singing gave me chills and transported me into the world of the Gothic. However the layers of projections, music, narration and singing was an attack on the senses, and at first this aural vertigo was exciting but there came a point where it should have ended and instead it continued, oblivious to the needs of the audience.

‘Chapter Two, Her Hand’ did provide some relief to this, the palm trees, sounds of wildlife and projection of water created a calm, dreamy atmosphere which juxtaposed the hyperbolic exposition just enough to allow the audience a moment to prepare for the sensory onslaught which was to be the remaining forty minutes.

Despite my critique of the play, there is no doubt that the cast were highly talented. I found the amalgamation of computer science and theatre to be exciting, and the animations of subterranean life, intimidating dogs barking and strands of the DNA helix designed by Gregory were fantastic. So too, were the performers, who displayed a fantastic control over their vocality and physicality, one girl transformed into a dog on stage, and for me her ‘barking’ was entirely life like. However while each aspect of the performance would have been brilliant in isolation, I personally felt that together it alienated me to the extent that I could not engage with the piece as a whole.

2.5 out of 5 stars