Posts Tagged ‘Borduria’

Review – Port (sixth installation of The Tempest in Six Parts) – RETZproduces at Borduria (297 Hoxton Street)

July 25, 2012

Six months after my initial gamble on a passport to Borduria (and entrance to all six installations representing The Tempest in its myriad forms), I can’t deny that I was feeling sad about the end of RETZ’s grand experiment. I had fallen in love alongside Miranda, watched Prospero wrestle with his pride, thumbwrestled Trinculo (and won!), and been accused by Sebastian of being a unicorn (after various sprites had loaded me up with Earl Grey martinis). I had been taken on a twisty tour of the warped mind of Caliban.

I had truly been to a brave new world: and, though I did not want to see it come to an end, I also did not want to not be there when it ended. So I booked for “The Port,” which had a damned narrow window of opportunity to visit: only three days worth of performances! But how could I say no to a last chance to see
“How many goodly creatures are there here!
“How beauteous mankind is!”

Arriving at the the Bordurian headquarters, I found that, for the first time, I was able to enter through the front door. Inside, for the sixth and last time, the space was wholly transformed: now it was a travel agency for the Bordurian Ferry system. It looked like we were going to be taking a trip! I perused the various items for sale (tapes from the Bordurian Women’s Choir; a travel adaptor; strange souvenirs), checked in at the counter (I was actually not on the passenger list but they let me on anyway as I had a valid ticket), then sat down in the waiting lounge, where I was pleased to see a woman I’d made friends with on a previous trip. We had a chat, then a man came in the room to gather us up: we were to be transported to a secret location via electric cart. Whee! We toddled on to the waiting vehicle, then began to slowly buzz up the streets of Hoxton, until we came up to and over a bridge … over the Regent’s canal. It was a glorious summer night (after weeks of rain), and people were sitting out at cafe tables beside the peaceful water. Suddenly it became clear to me that we really WERE going to go on a boat trip, not just hang out in the lobby of a travel agency, or watch the show in a warehouse. How exciting!

Our guard Yuri appeared and led us down to the towpath, where we stood, visiting amongst ourselves. Some of the people there had been to all (or most) of the other performances (like me), and they were also sad that this was the last go-round. I stood watching the backs of warehouse buildings and wondering how deep the water was (and talking about theater to a cute girl in a bow tie), until at last a narrowboat pulled up in front of us, piloted by the good captain Daisy. We were loaded on, and suddenly, amidst the chaos, I noted that a man stood at the prow – Prospero had returned! We were going to get a performance on a moving boat … how novel, and how appropriate for a play about a shipwreck!

And then we cast off, and Prospero began to talk about his future. He spoke to ARIEL (projected, as ever, but this time on the back on the boat’s engine room door), I was sometimes able to hear him, and I kind of went into a reverie caused by cool water, damp breezes, and the sight of a terrorized duckling desperately trying to catch up with his mother. God, it was lovely, and it looked like Prospero was going to finally loosen up. I approved.

Then we pulled up under a bridge, and behold! It was King Alonso, good Gonzago, and those two scurvy villains who’d been trying to murder the king earlier. They embarked, Prospero mildly rebuked the bad guys, and we sailed away to the sound of Alonso mourning the loss of his son. And then … on the opposite banks … two lovers leaned against a post in a clinch. Beyond them, two other lovers played hide and seek … and these were Miranda and Ferdinand! Alonso was overjoyed – I couldn’t help but feel happy with him – and though we kept going, we knew that all would be well for this young couple and their parents.

And what to wondering eyes did appear, huddled against the banks of the canal in a ratty old rowboat, but none other than sad old Caliban and her two drinking buddies. They then desperately tried to catch up with us in a scene that to me captured everything you needed to know about Caliban’s character … always behind, desperate to be one of the crowd, but just not together enough to be able to do it. The more murderous elements were not in play, but as we (and Caliban) pulled up to our final port of call, it was she who offered a hand to get me off the boat … and I asked Prospero if I could trust her. “I suppose you can, this once,” he replied. I then shook his hand, walked to the exit, and firmly grabbed Caliban … and got a good lift up. “Best of luck to you and thanks for everything,” I said, and Caliban offered me a drink … which I accepted.

All in all, it couldn’t have been more perfect.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday, July 21st, at 19:55. It’s all over now. I’m sorry.)

Review – Caliban’s Cave (third installation of The Tempest in Six Parts) – RETZproduces at Borduria (297 Hoxton Street)

April 23, 2012

Caliban: who is he, really? A hero? A villain? Is he evil, mentally deficient, or just warped by his past? We were given the chance to decide this for ourselves at the third installment of RETZ Production’s O Brave New World, in which we are invited to the lair of the “puppy headed monster” himself (or herself). Caliban’s cave is a detailed, low-ceiling environment that reminded me of nothing so much as the kinds of forts we used to build in the desert – a big pit in the ground with a bunch of mattresses thrown on top for shade and all of our precious treasures stored in little nooks inside. This was luxurious by fort standards – a spare armchair, a stool, some music playing, a half-busted computer monitor, and a bar (this being more part of the overall installation than Caliban’s per se, useful for people stopping by the location during the day or for those looking for a drink during the show).

We, the audience, show up shortly after the start time and arrange ourselves on the padded benches on the edges. From there, we are treated to Caliban’s exposition of his world – how he got where is his today (“see the picture of my mother!”), his take on Prospero (“Too much time reading and not enough duke-ing”), a wee hint of his feelings for Miranda, his dark smouldering plans to take his revenge on the person whom, in Caliban’s eyes, is responsible for ruining his life.

While I enjoyed my trip to Caliban’s crib, this episode did not hold up to the previous two (despite the good acting and the lovely reveal at the end). There was little use of Shakespeare’s own words, and, while some time spent in Caliban’s brain is fun, it just came off like a very thin production (albeit in a very rich environment). Caliban’s Cave was worth the trip for me, but I hope that this is as soft as the production goes, and that was are back to a richer performance in May with section four, The Claribel.

(This review is for a perfomance that took place on 7 PM, Thursday, April 19th, 2012. It continues through April 28th, at which time it will be torn down in preparation for the next installment.)

Review – A.R.I.E.L. (second installation of the Tempest in six parts) – RETZproduces at Borduria (297 Hoxton Street)

March 18, 2012

On my return to Borduria I was much more prepared for what to expect that the last time. As expected, my passport was stamped, but I was sent away because I was too early (apparently 8 PM for an 8:15 start is too early, but be warned it did actually get going pretty damned sharpish so don’t be running off to the pub down the street as if you really have time for a drink before the show).

When I returned, I was let through the door separating passport control from the rest of the building. Lo! The interior of the building had been completely ripped out since my last visit, and I was now in a sort of central control chamber, with video screens on the walls showing loops of a burning plane – the modern equivalent of a shipwreck. And raised in the corner was a little bed, with a young woman sleeping fitfully under blankets – our Miranda.

The tenor of the videos changed, and the show seemed to start (for the five of us standing in the room) – and a voice overhead, Prospero, began to argue with Miranda about the recent crash on the shores of their island. She seemed sincerely traumatized by it in a way I hadn’t remembered feeling from any other Miranda I’d seen. Eventually, the figure of a young man, Ferdinand, appears in the monitor screens: Miranda is fascinated. Then he bursts into the room, and we see them both amazed by each other. We were literally inches away from the actors, and every twitch of their faces was visible to us – somehow making it all seem more real. When Ferdinand is enchanted by Prospero, forced to work for him, it seemed quite believable – the magic in the old work somehow being realized in the technology of the modern room in which we stood.

The next “scene” took place through another door, in the front half of the building. It had been rebuilt as a sort of an office, with a bar in the middle serving drinks and coffee – I took advantage of the break to get a glass of red wine. Then Miranda and Ferdinand acted out the scene in which he is forced to attack the pile of “logs” Prospero has set as a task for him – in this case, they are log books (ooh how clever) and he is doing data entry. The entire scene was charming, and I found the words exchanged between the two actors more compelling than I had in any performance before. This, truly, was Shakespeare brought to life. I am looking forward to seeing the next iteration of this fun project!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, March 8th, 2012. To book, please follow this link. I think it’s going for another week but I’m not sure – I can’t get any information off of any of their many websites. However, the next installment, in April, will be “Caliban’s Cave,” followed by “Hotel Lobby,” “Prospero’s Library,” and “The Port.” For more information, I’d suggest emailing Retz.)

Review – The Tempest in Six Parts – RETZproduces at Borduria (297 Hoxton Street)

February 29, 2012

Sometime in January a curious tweet passed by in my feed: “Become a citizen of Borduria now, get access to 6 installations of ‘The Tempest’ in a pop-up Shoreditch art space.” The message was vague: I couldn’t tell exactly what I was being promised (paintings? movies? spoken word with jazz hands accompaniment?), but something about it attracted me like a phone number on a bathroom wall (or a message in a bottle): give a little money and you can Make Magic Happen. I could smell the sizzle of promise and imagination: I’ll become a citizen? And I’ll come back several times? What the heck, I thought, I’ll sign up for this “O Brave New World” and hope for the best.

Initially things went badly: my passport didn’t turn up after more than a week, and while I could see from the Twitter feed that things were happening, I couldn’t tell what. A chorus? Wrackeroni? Frequently the links were for YouTube videos or stuff on Facebook, both of which were blocked at work: then on the blog there were stories (the Bordurian women’s choir? People napping?) that made me unsure if I was going to a small concert hall or just a coffee shop. The passport I bought said I got “free access during the day,” but to what? And what was going on in the evening, exactly? Pressure mounted as the Twitter feed started talking about the end of the first installation, so I stopped faffing around, went onto the Bordurian Citizens website, and just signed up for a time to go. (Well, actually, I wasn’t able to get the website to work right and sent a Tweet saying I wanted to go, and the nice person who helped me sort out my missing passport took care of it or me.)

Come a Sunday and there I was, disembarking in front of St Leonard’s hospital with a Turkish pizza in my hand, trying to figure out which end of Hoxton was the right one given that (once again) none of the buildings had numbers on them. I got lucky and turned the right way (hoping the “top” of Hoxton was the part near the canal), and there was a man in a green overcoat and a military-style hat. He greeted me, I showed him my passport, and I was welcomed to Borduria, which apparently accessed via the rear entrance of a scaffolding-covered building (be careful stepping over the ladder).

Inside my passport was checked and stamped (“Welcome back, citizen!”) and I was ushered into … a small room that seemed like a combination bar slash coffeeshop. There was a bar with a person behind it making drinks (and a crock pot of some sort full of stew); a table football game; some stuff playing on TVs; and about twenty other people sitting around in chairs or on couches talking to each other and … waiting. (“What’s going to happen?” I asked one of the girls sat near me. “I don’t know!” she answered. Fair enough.)

So what DIDN’T happen is that we didn’t get up and move around the building to different places where different things were happening – we stayed put the whole time. So it wasn’t a promenade. And, well, even though a new “environment” was created inside the building, I wouldn’t really call it an installation piece or performance art. What it was, eventually, was a performance of once section of the Tempest – an early part of the play (somewhat cobbled together, I think, though with a lot of Act II scene II) with Caliban, Ariel, Trinculo, and (I think) Stephano, the last two (human) characters recently arrived on the island during a storm. Ariel is done as a computer program – A.R.I.E.L. – who speaks through the computer monitors on the walls (I think it was just text displaying but my memory has added a voice as well).

The three non-digital characters interact a bit with the audience at one point, drinking and playing games with us (I beat Trinculo at thumb wrestling) but mostly only have eyes for each other – though Caliban does have a go at the bar. It’s all very intimate and in your face in this very small space, making the sweat and smell of the actors very vibrant. While I was a bit disappointed that we weren’t actually walking around a recreation of a shipwreck and instead watching a fairly straight piece of theater, it was a cool experience. I also liked the integration of the digital character, and (as I saw later) all of the work the team had gone to created a full-cycle experience with the videos/tweets/graphics that surrounded the performance, making it more of a … well, four dimensional show, or five, perhaps – it was a show that had not just a place and time of performance, but a world and a lot of imagination. I’m a citizen of Borduria now. I live on a strange island with talking computers (and free WiFi) and hypnotizable, “clustering filberts” drinking monsters; and come next week I am going back to see something else entirely, and I’ll go four more times over the next 5 months to see “my homeland” in its entirety.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Sunday, February 19th, 2012. “O Brave New World” continues with its A.R.I.E.L. installment from Friday, March 2nd, 2012. For further updates, please see the RETZproduces twitter feed or the Facebook page – to be honest I find the whole thing hard to keep up with and am grateful I received a flyer letting me know that Friday was the date of the new show. I still have a lot of questions about what is going on with this show and apologize if I’ve been unable to answer yours.)