REVIEW: Perle, at The Tobacco Factory, 4/5, by Harry Mottram
WHEN someone you love dies you go into a state of shock. Anger, resentment, confusion follow. Eventually you let go. Out go the clothes, the books, the keepsakes. The charity shop, the recycling centre and jumble sale become the repository of their material past. But inside you keep their spirit alive – a glowing pearl light bulb of memory – so your loved one lives in your head for ever.
And so it is in Dancing Brick's Perle, directed by Valentina Ceschi, a bittersweet story of one man's poignant experience of bereavement staged with no dialogue and no tears. There is a television set with Serge Seidlitz's simple but effective illustrations, a neat symbolic set, the actor Thomas Eccleshare, and Harry Blake's evocative sound and lighting. It is a simple idea, staged with disarming restraint. Inspired by Perle, a medieval poem, it follows the dreamlike thoughts of a young dad whose wife has died in hospital, leaving him with their baby to care for. He seeks answers through a self-help book and friendly advice. But as in the poem his search for his "precious perle without a spot" is something he must achieve alone.
Eccelshare's performance is understated and believable. He reaches out and involves the audience in a little gentle participation. His mood swings of depression and reflection add pathos and moments of human frailty and even comedy. The set with its pearl lamps, video tapes and white circle focus on the man's insular world. The words of the poem flash up as we journey from his green garden in search of his lost love across the water.
For those who have experienced the pain of loss, this production in the style of a comic book will connect. For others it may seem more like the film The Artist – a single idea done simply – but with room for more content.
Instead of staying in and watching television you could go out and watch a man and his TV – and a story of gentle humour and originality.