Hide and Seek, at Edinburgh Fringe

Monday, 22 August, 2011

Well-observed Masked Movement Theatre

Edinburgh ’11-Church Hill Theatre – Studio- 8,10,11,13 Aug at 21:25

Hide and Seek is an hour long movement play developed by the students of Niles North Advanced Theatre Studio class. It is constructed by juxtaposing a variety of short, independent scenes which would function equally well as comic cabaret pieces. Some of the scenes happen in the Doctor’s Waiting Room, others in the Gym, the Park, or At Home. Between scenes, changes are simple, signalled by a pleadingly played, card carrying character with a quizzical face. The cards made it clear which of these places we were visiting.

All the characters were wearing  extremely well designed, splendidly constructed, grotesque masks and appropriate 1950’s costumes.. The heads were all cartoon character large and frozen into particularly powerful expressions. All the character development and communication, therefore, had to be achieved with physical movement. When sounds were required they were either canned music or made by unmasked actors at microphones, set downstage left and right. Thus set, they could watch the action and accompany it with appropriate explosions of sound or subtle squeaks and moans, to great comic or serious effect.

The doctor was a particularly nasty piece of work, very domineering, repeatedly smacking his receptionist – nurse’s behind, which she felt forced to proffer with more and more resignation as the scenes unfolded. It is clear this doctor does not cure any of the five patients he sees in the course of the time we enter their lives.

The patient’s scenes are played out with the initial signing of insurance forms being VERY IMPORTANT to the doctor who rubs his hands with glee at each administrative success.

He is a heavy jawed, large fore-headed, Neanderthal with absolutely no bedside manner. She is a light- hearted, small boned Betty Boopish lady with a wide eyed pretty mask and dark hair tied up with a ribbon. She quite clearly has no power in the consulting room and is reluctantly injecting patients who promptly collapse and are dragged off into the wings, never to be seen again. The one who escapes is afraid of the needle and leaves as fast as he can drag himself away. All the patients have very sick looking faces of different kinds, pained, depressed, too thin etc. playing different degrees of willingness to be“ taken care of “. Gradually, especially in the later scenes, the nurse is seen to become more and more uncomfortable, trying to persuade the patients to leave before the doctor appears. .Mostly her ploys to save them from their fate fail miserably because the doctor is watching her like a hawk and arrives to make sure they are caught.

When she goes home the Lady has no better a time with her horridly abusive husband whom she attempts to please in many ways and always ends up being bullied or hit. The Postman we all fall in love with, as she does. He is a plain looking but charming man who kisses her hand and is very kind to her at every turn. He appears in a variety of scenes becoming more and more enchanted with her shy acceptance of his loving attentions. All of the action requires the five person cast to use great movement control and physically subtle timing, to bring nuances to the relationships, which could have been trapped inside the constraints of the large, full head masks. Instead, it was as if the actors were freed by the discipline dictated by each mask, finding a way to make the acting stream through their gestures and emanate from their moving bodies. We feel for the characters as well as laugh with them.

In the gym the Doctor and the local Pretty Boy, who looks a bit like a well known cowboy movie star, compete to walk faster on the treadmill, lift heavier weights etc. to beat one another and impress The Lady, who has already made a play for the muscle-man and failed to impress him because he is married. To let us know this he shows her his ring. Off and on the Gym features, as does the Park where two older couples eventually swap partners to match their sense of humour and interests and the Postman meets and woos the Lady. Sometimes she is played by a man and sometimes by a woman, which is quite difficult to spot, since they have each mastered the movements required to bring the masks character to life.

Through a variety of short scenes elegantly pieced together and a lot of very entertaining, expressive movement exchanges, we become truly interested in the characters and the story of the young woman, the patients and the doctor, who is selling donor organs for vast profit. The comic enjoyment of the gory plot is handled very well and all the killings happen off stage, as in ancient Greek Drama, where large masks were also used on a regular basis in many plays. Ultimately the doctor is hoist by his own petard and his mask appears in the organ donor box. There is a happily ever after ending which delighted everyone and the whole experience is a very satisfying combination of plot and players telling their story with great clarity and beauty.

Cast Credits: ( alpha order ) Jonathan Berg-Einhorn – Actor  Will Boersma – Actor.  Dylan Connelley– Actor.  Martin Hanna – Actor  Sophie Scanlon– Actress

Company Credits: Writer – The Company devised the scenes for twenty-four masked characters

Director – Timothy Ortmann.  Sound – Alan Stotter.  Technical Director – Annaliisa Ahlman , Mask Designer and Maker – David Knezz,  Lighting Design – Daniel Friedman

© Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2011

reviewed Wednesday 190h August 011/ Church Hill Theatre / Edinburgh UK

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