Theatre in Wales

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Visually Brilliant Scary Fable

Theatre of Scotland

Little Otik- Vanishing Point/ National Theatre of Scotland , Sherman Theatre, Cardiff , June 23, 2008
Theatre of Scotland by Little Otik- Vanishing Point/ National Theatre of Scotland For the third time in a matter of weeks a Scottish production has come to Wales; all credit to the Sherman for securing the only performances of this gothic, visually stunning production outside Scotland.

“Little Otik”, an adaptation of the 2001 Czech animation film “Otisanek”, is a commission for the Vanishing Point Company theatre by the National Theatre of Scotland rather than a production direct, part of its wall-less artistic mission. In its borrowing from film, use of multi-media, rich soundscape and collaborative approach to authorship Vanishing Point has a relative in Cornwall’s acclaimed Kneehigh Theatre.

With the first words “Once Upon a Time” we know we are in for a variation on a fairytale. But before the first word is spoken the audience knows that Vanishing Point has something special in store. A little girl enters mid-auditorium, bouncing a ball, moves among the seats and climbs over the odd empty one. Up on the Fire Curtain, not yet raised, a giant projected infant in a babygrow chortles and gurgles. The stage, when revealed, in Kai Fisher’s set is layered with a covering of earth. A birch tree stands close to an isolated door.

The giant projections that follow, by Finn Ross, include birds and butterflies, streams of fluttering sperm and ultrasound foetal images, to the accompaniment of Christopher Shutt's eclectic score.

It is a kind of fairytale, hazily Scottish in setting, but the first section for all its visual luxuriance has an uncertainty of tone. Neighbours tut over the childlessness of Karl and Bozena Foster. Childlessness, a subject of great pain, has been treated on stage as tragedy, by Lorca, and as source for humour, by Ben Elton. “Little Otik” soon mutates into “The Little Shop of Horrors” and the uncertainty of tone is resolved.

Two moments elicited gasps, a whistle even, from the youngish audience. The
first was Ewan Hunter’s animation with a piece of wood that wriggled astonishingly. The second frisson was sparked by some brief nudity.

The role of the child Elspeth, part narrator, part observer and part protagonist, was played by Rebecca Smith. At times resembling a Year 10 Juliette Binoche it was her professional debut and a performance of extraordinary assurance.

In his programme notes director Matthew Lenton writes that a week before opening scenes were still missing or unfinished. For all the production’s bravura, ingenuity and daring, forgoing an author does carry a price. “Little Otik” is lacking in one aspect. It may not matter in the welter of enjoyment that it clearly gave. But like the character in another much-loved fable there is a touch of the Tin Man about “Little Otik”. It is looking for a heart.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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