Monday, June 22, 2009

Review: The Duel


Adapted from Fyodor Dostoyevsky
By Tom Wright
Directed by Matthew Lutton

Right. Well… I didn’t like it very much. First of all I thought it was derivative, Matthew Lutton has seen one too many Benedict Andrews shows and liked them a bit too much. I imagine him taking notes eagerly during the performances, sneaking in a camera phone so he can pore over the set design, delighting in the acting style and jotting down all the people Beno has worked with. The set design for The Duel was alarmingly similar to Moving Target, even with a bright red couch. The actors playing all the music themselves from a boombox, same kind of concept as the Ipod in Who’s Afraid… at Belvoir. The performance ended on an intake of breath, as if the actor (David Lee Smyth) was about to say something more, the same way Beno’s Far Away ended at STC. I’m sure there were more but these are the ones that stood out as the most blatant.

Now, I’m not saying that Beno himself was the first to use these ideas, nor does he have some kind of theatrical copyright on them. I’m not burying my head in the sand hiding from postmodernism, or Roland Barthes “tissue of quotations” or the transient nature of images in out media soaked culture. But… come on. If you’re going to pinch and borrow, let some time pass, or at least don’t do them all at once, and certainly not from the same artist. It’s like copy/pasting from Wikipedia into your major essay. It’s just not done.

The work was an adaption of a chapter from Dostoyevsky’s The Brother’s Karamazov, in which Zosima looks back on his death bed on his rash youthful behavior leading to The Duel of the play’s title, and the conflicted friendship that arose from it. The writing is clear and in some parts quite gorgeous but it is not enough. Even Luke Mullins as Zosima, who I’ll admit I adore having seen WOTR, The Eisteddfod and The Serpent’s Teeth, was not enough to keep my interest. Which is a real pity because I was looking forward to seeing him in what I assumed to be a play with a cool young director. I was wrong. I’ll see another Matthew Lutton if it comes around, I’d be happy for it to be proved otherwise, but The Duel did not do it for me.

It prompted me however, to think about my own work and where it comes from. I am now in the middle of production week for Osama The Hero, which will be the first show I have directed after ADing a few with Chris Ryan and Tim Maddock. I’m obviously going to be influenced by these individuals but outside of that, where do I draw my inspiration? From whom am I borrowing?

Schaubuehne videos on youtube. (Fluros rule)
The White Devil – Tim Maddock and Miriam Wells (plastic sheets)
The Lost Echo – Kosky (tiles, bathroom)
Tricky –Council Estate filmclip (the mess, the smudged faces)

And that’s just the aesthetics. It was an interesting thought and a revealing list for me to mull over and one, thanks to The Duel, I’ll continue to check up on moving forward onto other projects.

Here’s a shameless pug for Osama, if anyone is interested.


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