My blogs tend to fall into one of two camps: this is what I'm doing, or this is what I love. I've written about a number of art works that I've essentially fallen in love with. Some have changed my practice, many just inspire me to make the best art I can. So, can you guess which type of blog this is.
One of the many joys of living in Bath is that every year the Bath Festival comes to town. And with it comes the Bath Fringe Festival. Unfortunately, I was out of town for most of the festival. Then, as I was thinking about how I wanted to see some of the fringe before it was over, a woman standing near a puppet stepped towards me: "Do you like theatre?"
Truth be told I was aware of Darlings before this point. I'd looked at the fringe website, saw Darlings, saw "brutally vulnerable … look at modern relationships, manipulation, and how they are tied into our childhood experience", decided this looked too dark, closed the site. Still, after a short discussion about theatre, music and Freud I'd decided to be in the audience that evening - and I'm glad I was.
One of the things I love about writing this blog is that I don't have to be a critic. I can write about what I love and about what excites me without having to look for negatives. In line with that, there's a lot I could write about the show but I'm just going to mention a few things that particularly stood out. I'm not sure how these relate to my practice, but I loved them and I'm sure it'll feed in at some point - watch this space.
Foreshadowing and Puppets
First off these puppets are beautiful. In finding the pictures below I realised that that's not an inherent quality of the puppets. The actors manage to give them such humanity. The vulnerability in a small, silent puppet was captivating. I feel like I could have stayed in those puppet-led moments for hours (although it's worth remembering that, in all art, without the wider context moments like these lose their power)
Once they've made their first appearance they are unforgettable. And every time they return they bring with them a sense of foreshadowing. Without giving spoilers, they provoke an "oh, we're going there again".
This feeling is strengthened by the use of music throughout. Largely a collection of diegetic sound, those non-diegetic moments cut through and create an immersive experience. Before we finished our first iteration of There will be Dread I was concerned that non-diegetic music could remind people that they're in a fictional space. Instead, it drew them deeper in and that was the same in Darlings.
I'm going to try and keep this spoiler free, so it could be vague.
At the end of the show, I realised I couldn't tell you the facts of any scene. I wonder if I'd have a different experience if I knew nothing of the themes beforehand. I spent some time trying to decide if the relationship was manipulative - I'm not sure it actually matters. How much does Eve project onto Gabe? How much is Gabe a liar? Are childhood memories accurate portrayals of events? Eleanor Hope-Jones has written a work that raised all these questions and, wonderfully, answered none. But isn't that the point of art? To ask questions, to provoke thought, not to give definitive answers.
Creative Use of a Bathtub
Throughout the performance there is an ever present bathtub centre stage. This has spoiler heavy meaning far beyond anything I'm going to say here. But, it occurred to me towards the end of the show that I don't think we ever see Eve and Gabe in the actual bathroom. I've seen less conspicuous objects used in staging, a stage block can be any number of things. But a bathtub has a specific purpose, that it could be used in place of any household furniture without seeming weird is a credit to the team.
I saw this on it's last night at the Bath Fringe. Palomar Theatre are next taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe, and am so glad they reached all the crowdfunding targets they needed. As I mentioned at the start of this blog, experiencing art can sometimes be a little like falling in love. Looking back at pieces such as Mothertongue, Nico Muhly; In the Light of Air, Anna Thorvaldsdottir; Do You Be, Meredith Monk; and many more I can see this. Once again, by the end of Darlings I knew - I'd fallen again.