views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Mr Jordan's Funeral: In Absence of his Memory
Etcetera Theatre
27th August 2016


Publicity photograph for Mr Jordan's Funeral: In Absence of his Memory

Photography © Nickolai Nickolov

Just who is Mr Jordan? 45 minutes later and I'm still not sure that I'm any the wiser. Mr Jordan's Funeral: In Absence of his Memory is a very interesting but confusing piece of devised physical theatre that explores his life and his connection to six women. Visually, it is very striking and there is so much about this production that I think is absolutely brilliant. However, Foxtale need to not only invest the time in the overall finish of their story, but also spend a bit of time in letting the audience into what that is. To deliberately keep things this vague is to risk crossing the line from mysterious into inaccessible.

Initially five of the women (Hannah Newman, Judita Vivas, Elena Skreka, Mara Morgantti Minchillo and Lucy White) hunt around for something to wear. The set is like any teenager's bedroom on a really bad day, covered in piles of clothes and shoes in many clashing, vibrant colours. The women pick out different garments and footwear with differing reactions: some are pleased with their selections, others more confused and anxious. We do though seem to at least get a hint of their differing personalities. The remaining woman (Emilia Oldani) takes control, forcing the others to abandon their own wardrobe choices and instead dress in black, a more traditional colour for a funeral.

There are other hints of Mr Jordan's passing. The empty tea cups and saucers that wobble and are banged in repeated movements create a sort of melody, with some of the women nervous and others provocative and confident. Some are more happy to play, others are out to cause trouble. We sense this is part of the wake, with the women forced to sit down together out of societal convention and least a few of them dreading it. We also see them united in collecting a bunch of white lilies, with their interactions often aggressive or fearful. Whoever these ladies are, either Mr Jordan kept them apart when he was alive or he was the peacemaker who always smoothed things over. These are our biggest hints into unravelling the story, with the few pieces of dialogue fragmented and obscure, adding little to our comprehension.

When we abandon our pursuit of Mr Jordan and watch the show as a pure visual piece of entertainment, it's far easier to enjoy it. The shredded paper, strawberries, sunglasses - it's all very appealing to the eye and at times delightfully visceral. As a piece of physical theatre, the entire ensemble deliver some very nuanced performances and if you focus on any one of them, she will always be committed to her own narrative arc. There really is a lot to like.

We get the distinct impression that the company achieve whatever it is they intended to do with Mr Jordan's Funeral. Whilst it's outright baffling for sure, it feels very smooth, it looks magnificent and there are no noticeable fluffs or slips. It certainly seems to go to plan. We're drawn into this piece, hooked by curiosity, if nothing else. However, what they lack is our emotional investment. All the mystery creates an artificial barrier between us and them and by sacrificing some of this with some clearer signposting, I think the compromise would result in something far more powerful. Beautiful, intriguing and exciting, but ultimately leaves you searching for impossible answers.

Mr Jordan's Funeral: In Absence of his Memory opened on 26th August and runs until 28th August 2016 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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