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Friday, 13 July 2007

'Men Without Shadows' review (English translation)

Y Cymro – 13/7/07

This week, two productions at two very different venues; from the majestic newly refurbished Festival Hall and a very memorable production of ‘Sweeney Todd - The demon barber of Fleet Street’ to the simple enclosure of the Finborough Theatre with their striking production of Jean-Paul Sartre’s, ‘Men without Shadows’.

(review of Sweeney Todd)

In contrast to ‘Sweeney Todd’, I knew nothing about the work of Sartre before seeing the latest production at the Finborough Theatre in the Earls Court area. This is one of those charming small theatres above a public house, that’s become very popular in London at the moment, and is an excellent starting point for many a smaller company and production. It’s at these venues, if you look carefully, that you find the pearls at the moment, at a quarter of the price of the larger venues. As I squeezed myself upstairs, I noticed all the well known productions and names that started their theatrical journeys here, and was then advised to squeeze into the audience, as all of the 40 tickets had been sold.

I literally stepped into the play, and found myself in the upper floor of a farmhouse in occupied France in July 1944. As the War was in full swing, the milice had captured five of the resistance in this room, as they awaited their call to be taken down for questioning and torture. The atmosphere was intense and amazing, high praise to the director Mitchel Moreno and designer Mamoru Iriguchi for creating such tension before any of the actors spoke a word.

I must also mention Charlie Covell, who gave a very sensitive performance as the only female amongst the men - so scared and frightened after her rape and torture. Also Jamie Lennox as ‘Henri’, Stephen Sobal as ‘Sorbier’ and Sam Hodges as their leader ‘Jean’ who is also captured and imprisoned with them, which leads to further tension, and their major predicament, which lies at the heart of the story – should they betray him or not? Personally, I didn’t feel that the torturers performances were as powerful as the prisoners, and that made it very difficult for me to accept the cruelty of their scenes.

Despite the need to get more dirt on the set and the prisoner’s clothes, I was taken into their story, and found myself sympathising with their situation, in the heat of the hour and a half of the show’s duration. It was a very special experience to witness, but unfortunately, the show has now come to the end of its run.

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