"Use Your Imagination! …and Don't!"
by Marco Marrese for remotegoat on 25/03/11

You better be prepared for a brainy evening as you go and watch this British premiere of Wajdi Mouawad's Littoral (Shore) at the Riverside Studios. This is deliberately and manifestly high-brow theatre, and I would think most viewers will find it cryptic and incomprehensible. Honestly, despite having done his homework, this reviewer was perplexed for most of the first half and still remains confused about the themes and messages that the author wants to convey.

Wilfred (Joseph Elliott), the protagonist, develops his identity in front of us as he grows out of adolescence, following the death of his father. We experience with him the mix of imaginary and real events through which he discovers the contradictions of his origins (was his father a murderer, or not?). We follow him in the encounters that will allow him to become a man, by understanding and accepting both what he shares with other human beings, and his uniqueness. We see him abandoning his protective fantasies (a medieval knight he calls whenever he needs protection) and his cowardly excuses (a film crew "directing" his life).

During the first thirty minutes of the performance, the confusion of reality and imagination is such, and the sequence of events so puzzling, that it is difficult to appreciate the play (but it is easy to appreciate the acting). However, as things tidy up a bit, the script gets more enjoyable; and, while the scene remains the same, it feels much more alive and diverse, thanks to the actors' choreography and the lighting. Then, as Wilfred builds his memories, the stage is animated by his father's letters, and later by the characters' clothing, creating the silhouette of a shore. As Wilfred's young (Nadeam Millward) and old father (Rufus Graham) substitute each other, they are brought to life by light. As the protagonist abandons his solitary world, "the others" become alive with songs and music. The direction (Anne Khazam) and lighting (Tim Mascall) give their best.
The actors perform beautifully. Joseph Elliott's and Rufus Graham monologues are full and engaging. Nadeam Millward's performance is emotional and gripping. Augustina Seymour and Mark Moore animate their supporting roles and bring to life their more intense emotions (love, dedication and anger).
Despite everything, the play even succeeds in generating some laughing, even though my impression is that this was due to the public's failure to understand its depth, more than the author's intention.

While the direction, stage design and acting are all of very good level, the language and themes of this play require vast knowledge and patience to be really appreciated. For this reason, although I am happy to recommend it, you should be aware this is not a performance you would go to for a cheerful, entertaining evening out, nor a play that will be appreciated by everyone.

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