Ashes, Plexus Polaire, Jacksons Lane. Review by Rachel Lowe.
‘Well it’s all a bit awkward isn’t it’ said the man behind me with the black pudding hat on. ‘Shall we just sit in here and get pissed and go in half way though’. I sniggered as his attitude had been the same as mine from the get go. ‘Mime’ in a ‘creative space’ in ‘North London’. His headwear was making me feel more uncomfortable than the setting of Jackson’s Lane though so I decided to pay him no heed.
I had half a plastic pint glass of merlot and after checking at the ticket booth that the show was only an hour long, I was set to do it. I had agreed to going to a mime show 3 weeks earlier, when Dry January was still doable and I was looking for things to distract me of a weekend. As it got closer I was relieved there had been a new rule of ‘only dry on week nights January’ as I didn’t think I could make it through a mime show without any extra stimulus.
They don’t allocate you seats at Jackson’s Lane so after casually waiting for the crowds to go in there was a last minute dash for the row at the back that had been marked ‘reserved’. Presumably for the Director’s Mum who had had to wait for a re-enactment in the living room when the show had been an unexpected sell out.
Then the lights went down. Some pretentious passage about life turning to ash appeared on the screen and I thought
‘Oh here we go, I have come to a creative space…I’ve asked for this’.
And then a creepy looking little puppet of a man with a pale face, sparse, flyaway hair and black old eyes appeared on the stage. I knew it was about arson so I wasn’t surprised he had on him a little red container of a flammable substance and that he kept lighting his little lighter. What I was surprised at was how realistically he moved. And that although I knew the men behind, dressed like bouncers, were there I forgot about them in a matter of moments. I was enthralled.
I assumed I would be bored witless but I wasn’t for one second. Quite early on we were reassured it wasn’t just a Punch and Judy show. Moments after being captivated by the weird little puppet man we had a real life human in front of us, who had also apparently quit dry January, smoking real looking fags and swigging Peroni in front of his laptop. He also said ‘fuck it’ quite early on which I am sure is against the rules…
As he bashed away at his keyboard, the ramblings of a drunken writer, words appeared on a screen before us giving us a much-needed intro to the plot. I had wondered beforehand how we might follow the story and the show did rely heavily on these words that appeared regularly on a (smoke misted) screen throughout the show.
It was eerie and enchanting…the puppet of the black dog of depression would have resonated with anyone who may have met his metaphorical self before. One of the puppets did look a bit like Theresa May dressed in her ‘I hope no one drops by tonight’ clothes but that was only a brief distraction. Because she was so realistic. Through her subtle movements we could feel her pain. The dark beat of the music filled any awkward ‘mime’ silence. I was scared of the crazy little arsonist, particularly because his puppeteers were up to no good, whispering encouragement of misdeeds in his ear. I felt sympathy for the characters who had felt the brunt of his fondness of the flame, despite the fact they were effing puppets.
I left feeling that I would be quite happy if every theatre show I went to again had only had in the script the words ‘fuck it’ and in italics ‘barely mumbled’. And if most of the actors were replaced by puppets. When’s the next production of Punch and Judy?
27 Jan — 29 Jan.
Rachel Lowe © 2017.