"Nobody is normal nowadays ..."
by Veronica Lazar for remotegoat on 09/02/17

One by one, various characters enter a waiting room of their life... A cellist and his instrument (Nick Allen); a wonderful Lady with a Veil (Simona Armstrong), a rather celestial apparition with glimpses of a scared deer at the sound of the falsetto notes coming from the musical instrument; a middle class, rather exotic Man with a Stick (Mihai Arsene), who managed with a great dexterity to portray the quintessence of an English eccentric gentlemen, now only a shadow of his former glory, who noticed the sensible lady and immediately shows an interest in her. The silent courting will be accepted by the lady, who is rather flattered. However, they are interrupted by a last character, a rather sanguine and extremely annoying Man with a Newspaper (Tudor Smoleanu), visibly interfering between the flirt of the previous two characters, that we cannot get enough of.

This is the beginning of the UK premiere of Romanian's most prolific contemporary playwright Matei Visniec, produced by The Romanian Cultural Institute and Atelier Theatre under the directing of Vasile Nedelcu, with costumes design by Denisa Dumitrescu, choreography by Malina Andrei and sound design by Diego Barraza.. The initiative and support of the Romanian Cultural Institute in London is very welcomed in the landscape of the cultural migration to the UK, where there are already a few established Romanian actors on the UK stage and screen, if we are to name two of the protagonists of this production: Simona Armstrong and Mihai Arsene. Nevertheless, the initiative reveals the biggest involvement in a production by the Romanian Cultural Institute, working now with local hire actors for a bigger run and making the performance available to the British public, not only the Romanian community, as the show performs in English. We salute this gesture.

The play itself continues, as the time passes, with highlighting an element of disturbance in all the characters' wait, like in any Happening without a perfect equilibrium. The element in question is none other than the cellist, also in waiting and passing the time playing a music that is neither Bach nor Handel, but an irritating falsetto style, nothing else but the composition of the avant-garde composer Iancu Dumitrescu. The “acousmatic” music of the cellist agitates the other characters, driving them to the edge one at a time, as they conclude that no “good music is elevating”, but “silence is elevating”. The musical “Chinese drop” starts aggravating first the most impatient one – The Man with the Newspaper, whose distressing state of mind is meant to achieve an outburst, only sketched by the actor, followed by a visibly perturbed Lady with the Veil, who almost goes berserk in her crisis, courageously performed by Simona Armstrong, although her sudden burst needed an innuendo of some sort, considering the power and length of her discharge. In dichotomy with these two frustrated manifestations in crescendo, The Man with the Stick plays on his childhood memories of games and harmonica music, in a wonderful collage of elements performed to a mesmerized audience by Mihai Arsene. His act will make the chaos around to come to a halt. Nevertheless, the director Vasile Nedelcu added a hidden message that delves on the innocence of a child, in order to make sense of a chaos.

However, not for long, as after realizing their antics performance had little impact on the cellist, the three characters would look at more drastic solutions to achieve that elevating state of “silence”, of pure equilibrium in the wait of something to happen, in their case a false expectancy of the rain to stop.

The entire hour you will spend in the company of these characters would be definitely entertaining, with moments of comedy, but also absurdity. You will easily understand the aggression against the freedom of expression and intolerance of diversity, ideas that the play develops, as the playwright have fought these with all his being since his exile in France during the communist dictatorship happening in Romania. Therefore the need for characters' mind projection is futile and the play would benefit from having better lights during the second part.

Nonetheless, a wonderful performance that begs for a longer run, beyond the length of the Vault Festival.

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