Sarah Sharman, Thom Solberg, Olivia Nicholson, Lucie Chester TheShepherds Chameleon [images © Sloetry]
A play, which explores the futility of the critic, is a rather dichotomous piece to write a review on.
Utopia Theatre’s production is a bold reimagining of an absurdist text which contradicts, reaffirms and amuses. Our playwright Ionesco snores loudly in his manuscript strewn studio until Bartholomeus disturbs his slumber to demand a play. Within the Theatre of the Absurd genre a simple case of supply and demand becomes an existentialist inquest into the validity of art. As three Bartholomeus interrogate one humble writer to the point of bestial regression the audience is left contemplative but chuckling.
The production is infused with diverse dramatic techniques which enhance both the surrealism and the language. Soundscapes are used to fantastic effect and the cast use physical movement to create another level to each sequence. Our three Bartholomeus each represent a different element of the scholarly bourgeois tradition. Bart I played by Lucie Chester detests creativity and her over enunciation and teeth bared grin make her the most confrontational scholar. Olivia Nicholson’s Bart II finds her conviction in other scholar’s opinions. Costume and set designer Kady Howey Nunn externalises Bart II’s unoriginality with newsprint leggings and power shoulder pads.
This is a production that has to be seen to be believed and will still leave the patron in a state of rumination. How wonderful to find a play with the power to leave the audience with such contradicting conclusions.
The attention to detail from director Moji Kareem creates a perpetual dance of elliptical subconscious. Each individual movement is chosen for effect whether comedy, provocation or simply for the beauty of the gesture. Bart III played by Sarah Sharman is the gentile voice of academia. Her position of superiority is founded on lineage making her the most assured of the Barts. She performs the Macarena and rewrites reference books without a second thought. Clad like an 80s princess in leg warmers and Twitter references Sharman makes her debut with breezy conviction.
Whilst the text itself is symptomatic of the genre’s ‘futile existence’ stance the writing is laden with significance. The self referential art imitating art is thought provoking. The incessant word play with different inflections and contradictory tautologies is enriching. The interplay between our three erratic Barts and our befuddled playwright is hilarious. Thom Solberg plays a calmly confused Ionesco. His desperation to justify and explain himself to his interrogators is transparent but measured. He also accepts being repeatedly whacked on the rear with a book surprisingly well.
This is a production that has to be seen to be believed and will still leave the patron in a state of rumination. How wonderful to find a play with the power to leave the audience with such contradicting conclusions. The energy of the cast and the abundance of creativity are incredible and totally unique. Leaving the theatre contemplating the universe in all its glory I found the play had confirmed one thing for me. Life is fun.
Moji Kareem – interview
Official trailer for The Shepherd’s Chameleon by Miles of Styles
Meet the cast of The Shepherd’s Chameleon
In rehearsals – The Shepherd’s Chameleon – pics by Sloetry