I don’t understand interpretive theatre…

Last week I had the joy of going to see “The Bell” in Newbury marketplace with a good friend of mine. It was a lovely night, the pyrotechnics were incredible, the actors didn’t break character and the whole thing was pretty groovy. Except for one small thing…

I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

For the whole performance, I just did not understand what we were supposed to be seeing. The information for the play said that it was the story of human survival in a land torn apart by invading forces. Right. Here’s what I got from the performance.

It started off with a post apocalyptic Christmas Day. The actors were covered in blood and dirty, torn clothing and had clearly just come off the field of a furious gift giving battle. The rallying cheers of ” HO!” “HO!” “HO!” went around the group multiple times, before the leader of this group of warriors, a Santa Claus slimmed down and made lean and unforgiving by the ravages of war, addressed us and told us that our entire lives are a battle and that we must stand together. It didn’t help that he delivered this in fluent Spanish, before translating it into English, where it lost some of the magic. A little morbid considering that this was a show where people brought their young children, no doubt due to the concept involving Santa Claus (at least as far as I’m interpreting it). Nevertheless, these were the good guys.

A massive group of what I can only assume to be demons borne of Scrooge and negative festivity then invade the marketplace from the other side, swinging their flags around (I’m under the assumption that the red cloth attached to the sword length stick is meant to represent blood and destruction) and generally terrifying people and being 7 feet tall, with the actors on stilts. This battle raged on, with the good guys bouncing on trampolines and brandishing their own flag weapons. What I didn’t get was that these evil enemy demons seemed to have very weak, spindly legs and yet everyone seemed to be focussing on attacking their heads… Tactics, people! The demons also seemed to have an army of the dead, carrying flaming torches and flares. I don’t know quite why, but I assume it was a metaphor for death and destruction. Either that or they ended up at a Hawthorne Heights gig! (no offence to HH, or their fans, but you can be the most depressing looking people!)

The battle ended, the demon enemies vanished and the survivors climbed atop a frame to rally everyone into rebuilding their broken world, whist lamenting the loss of their leader and their loved ones. They declare they will build a bell and the music of it will chase away the darkness and be a testament to resilience. They then travel through the crowd, cheering at people to rally support before finally raising a huge bell which is then set alight and become wreathed in flame.

Then the show ends. The whole performance took about 45minutes and I just gave you a very brief overview, but yeah…

Somehow I don’t think that I fully grasp the subtle nuances of interpretive performances. I seem to have trouble with the idea of reading into the hidden messages subtly weaved into the show. I think I’ll stick to plays with a clear plot and writing blogs about cookery and idiots….


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