Sunday, April 21, 2013

When autobiography fails to be personal (Theatre - Mayday Mayday - Theatre at St. Anne's Warehouse)

I know Tristan Sturrock's work as a talented member of Kneehigh Theatre, which did, among other works, a brilliantly inventive theatrical adaptation of Brief Encounter.  Mayday Mayday: A True Story by the Man Who Fell is Sturrock's one-man account of his recovery from an accident which broke his cervical spine.  It is presented by his own Theatre Damfino.  It sports a number of creative moments with its spare means, and I have no doubt that its creation was useful therapeutically, but that didn't make it involving theatre. Audiences often seem unwilling to say when autobiographic works about recovery haven't made for captivating works of art, perhaps they fear their reaction will be felt too personally.  In fact, Sturrock opens the performance by saying that this was, for a long time, a story he didn't want to tell.  I can't blame him but unfortunately, I could tell that from the performance. The work uses narrative storytelling to remain distant to the experience of it. While it showcases Sturrock's remarkable physical precision and appealing presence, it doesn't live.  It is emotionally unrevealing of his experience then or his present experience with us.  I'm pleased for his remarkable good luck but wasn't won over by Mayday Mayday as theatre.

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