"Intriguing, Delightful, Discussion-provoking, Humanity-celebrating, Performance-Art"
by Arthur Duncan for remotegoat on 10/07/13

tidy carnage is a theatre-creating collective to watch - & watch again & again. A small group of professionals; theatre director, actors & technical designers based in Glasgow, struggling with funding issues (of course) yet they have produced extraordinary performances developed through movement and dance. Creating from stories & text, 'dream//life' is grounded in harsh reality & 'tidy carnage' express their concerns thru' heartfelt sensitivity enhanced by their engaging performance skills.

'dream//life' is not art for Art's sake, 'tho' this performance certainly is artistic. It is Art for Humanity's sake. Scottish artistes, Neil John Gibson & Helen Cuinn represent a happy couple whose tragedy they tell here movingly, without sentimentality.

Director, Allie Butler brings her own discerning instincts to bear on the story of Ian & his wife, June. This beautiful drama - almost a ballet - draws its audience carefully, thru' Ian's & June's young love, to celebrating their wedding until the living nightmare of Motor Neurone Disease comes to afflict Ian.

Unable to use his limbs, Ian needs everything done for him by his devoted spouse. He remembers the way they were & dreams of how he'd wish his life could be. When he recalls favourite songs in his head, his lover seems telepathically moved to sing them.

Helen Cuinn's voice is light & so fine, leaving me wishing we could have heard more. But she is not singing to entertain us. She is devoted to Ian, dutiful to her vows. Or perhaps June only sings for herself, lamenting her lost life & dreams unfulfilled.

Neil John Gibson enacts Ian's earlier life too. Happinesses he once enjoyed, now are only memories & dreams, that leave him sorrowful but not destroyed. He bursts into a karaoke joint with operatic power; his youthful virility lifts his dancing bride in exultant joy at his great fortune in her love. But at quieter times, ghost-like behind the couple, projected onto the back wall of the acting space, a pair of lovers romantically waltzes; his former self with a younger June; his love, his life, his wife, his nurse.

In scarlet frock, Helen Cuinn, petite & red-haired, moves like a ballerina, not only in projected images but in live-action also. She sometimes dances alone but mostly with Neil, playing her husband. Her sensual embrace expresses the intimacy of the lovers' life together; recreating joys they knew before the drudgery of care & his immobilizing misery challenged their happiness; a challenge which tries the couple's fortitude to the limit.

Allie Butler's vision rises above a mundane recital of facts. In less than 60 minutes her artistic concept presents many facets of adversity & ways in which people cope. She translates all this with visually atmospheric scenery, complementing the fluency of her actors' performances. Movement, often balletic but sometimes more 'disco,' makes greater impact than words, 'tho' the poetic force of words also plays its part, unfolding the story.

'dream//life' is a modestly presented piece of theatre, entertaining & appealing that - after Exeter - will tour wherever venues can host them, in support of the campaign currently run by Motor Neurone Disease Associations across Britain.

Nationwide MNDAs are seeking to raise public awareness of this horrific condition. Owing to its comparative rarity, (Approx, 5000 UK cases current at any time) MND receives no specific government funding for research & in the experience of affected families, has trained few NHS medics to be specialists in its treatment.

This excellent show would reward repeated attendances for sheer quality of entertainment, irrespective of its 'message' & deserves support from Arts Council England & charitable sponsors. Commitment to a neglected social issue might well compel funding to ensure that it is seen more widely. A documentary film on the theme will be shown at The Bike Shed Theatre during the show's final week.

In Exeter until 20th July, taking a trip to TBST & Lounge Bar for pleasure & a mind-expanding experience, is well worth the ticket.

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