Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

An outstanding performance and Picasso

Clarissa

Notional Theatre , Chapter , December-15-18
Clarissa by Notional Theatre What is outstanding in this very fine amalgam of theatre and film, excellently written and directed by Terry Victor with cinematography by Christian Britten is the totally captivating and compelling performance of its solo star Angharad Berrow. She is a delight to watch, often with a wicked smile on her lips and an endearing look on her face.

We see her, at first, sixteen years old as a young coquettish film starlet at the beginning of the era of the talking films, the golden age of Hollywood. From time to time her hundred-year-old self interrupts and looks back on these times with her.

She tells us of her meetings with many of the well-known stars. She has become one of them herself by this time.

It’s a well-observed life story enhanced with dynamic film depicting events of the times as she travels through them. World War II caries a great impact as we see on screen Clarissa as an ENSA entertainer. Along with the film, Clarissa now, very grown up tells us how she added “a bit of flavour and glitz to the war.”

She talks of Picasso and other artists she has known. From time to time Picasso’s iconic painting and genesis of the play, Guernica is seen on the screen, his deadly response to Franco’s raid on the Basque town.

Heinrich is the first man in her life but she very soon dismisses him. It is extraordinary how Berrow brings to life each of the characters she meets and sometimes loves. They rise from Prime Ministers to kings and queens. Victor has created a really remarkable story and it is beautifully told.

This play is a reflection on many things, art, love, life all seen through the eyes of Clarissa who we know well by now, she has become less endearing but none the less still fascinating and still strongly holding our attention.

With great skill Berrow has taken us through a whole lifetime. Now she is old and crooked and cries to be left in peace.

She has responded well, with splendid ability and sensuality to the choreography of Tamsin Griffiths’ movement direction. Whilst she is a finely commanding solo performer this is very much an ensemble work.

Jane Lalljee’s lighting design perfectly complements the work. Filmmaker Christian Britten acts as visual director. Creative producer Abbie Hurst and voice coach Emma Stevens-Johnson also make valuable contributions. Gareth Wyn Griffiths has composed some wonderful music that takes us seamlessly into the narrative. and stage manger Aisling Renton keeps everything in fine order.
This great team adds up to a great show.

Reviewed by: Mixhael Kelligan

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