revew: Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Rachel Parish – Hellscreen
Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Rachel Parish/
Vault Festival, London/
– went to see this play, think it fell a bit short .
– was very pretty, like, right from the start we walked into this big vaulted underground chamber, there were lights and sounds and everything, projections, like light and airy and very pretty, nice .
– nice, friendly and this chorus/ensemble/group of actors were there and with this childish innocence naivety stuff about them, and, er handed us stools, to sit on .
– and i wasnt sure what they were, the chorus, but that was exciting to begin with .
– the show starts and its this father/daughter affair .
– Frank is an artist, striving controversy artist, most recently exhibited paintings of celebrities, painted out of shit .
– Amy is His Daughter, very sweet angelic type child, 16, bit of a little mermaid vibe to her really .
– Franks frustrated, theres this critic character keeps popping up throughout, giving this throughline, how The Art World is receiving him, the gist is Frank isnt upsetting people enough, the critic says hes boring, old hat .
– cue this mephistopheles type woman who is obviously bad news and who is some big arts patron, she offers Frank All The Money he needs to realise his vision, which is essentially to ape horrible things that happen in the world, so the people in the world realise how horrible the world is .
– everything Franks doing gets worse and worse and worse until, of course, Amy dies and the Faustian Pact comes to the only conclusion it could have .
– so there was A Lot of interesting stuff in this play, really had a lot in it thats worth thinking about, fitted interestingly into the realworld Art World, ideas evoking Bosch the Chapman brothers Josh Harris and the like .
– there was this relationship with horror, a difficult relationship with horror that was very muddy a lot of the time .
– the play kept trying to shock us, picture drowning a dog, electrocuting a man, blowing up a hospital, now stop trying to picture those things because the show wont let you, itll instead just depict them, and, take the horror away, because however they depict the horror of these things it cant trump the horror of leaving them to its audiences imagination .
– and i reckon its because the show didnt trust its audience, we werent trusted to be able to horrify ourselves in our own heads, and maybe true horror can be depicted onstage but its a damn sight harder than just leaving it to us, as humans were very good at and very practiced at terrifying ourselves .
– the big problems i had with Hellscreen i put down to production, the ideas in the script i really enjoyed .
– ill forgive that i knew from the first ten minutes Amy would be a martyr to horror because im not going to pretend that a Faustian Pact ought to take me by surprise, and as a vehicle for exploring the role of ethics in contemporary art its not a terrible one .
– and personally i really like the sort of stories that involve taking things to task, to their logical conclusion, and show how horrible things can end up .
– so my issue largely isnt with the script .
– there was a lot of style in this piece, performances, settings, movements were stylised, a friend who saw it with me reckons it was the pieces lack of believable or relatable humanity that made the play suffer, i reckon it was the play losing sight of its own themes .
– we had style over substance and there were too many moments where it didnt follow through on the distress we were being told we should feel .
– we were attacked as an audience, as a society, but too timidly .
– i said the relationship with horror was muddy, and id say the relationship with its own text was muddy too .
– the chorus/ensemble/greek chorus type group were undefined, curious, which i was excited by at the start but through the play it was never clear what reality they were a part of .
– at the start of the show they gave us our seats, so they were, real, in that sense, and they were this ensemble influencing the world of the play, so they were between, real and, not, in that world, but then they were sometimes as if actual characters in that world, interacting directly with the other characters, then other times they sat with us in the audience and ceased being part of that world entirely .
– and this, and their role, was confusing, and frustrating .
– the Daughter, Amy, sang, and this wouldn’t have been so cringey if these little singing moments had been more understated, as it was there were awkward unwarranted bursts of music and heartfelt innocenceangst .
– the production felt confused, distracted by its own design prettiness, and largely unaware of how to work its own script, and patronised an audience it didnt trust .
– i think the script might have some mileage, but not in this production, it felt like it had too much going on that was unjustified .