Review: Lumenis Theatre Company in Casa at Camden People's Theatre

Performance: 9-13 August 2010
Reviewed by Lise Smith - Friday 13 August 2010

Lumenis Theatre Company 'Casa' 9-13 Aug.10, Camden People's Theatre

Reviewed: 10 August 2010

On a wet and windy Camden night, a small audience struggles into the tiny Camden People’s Theatre for Annarita Mazzilli‘s hour-long investigation of ideas of home. It seems that a more concrete and centrally-heated version of home is more appealing to most on this singularly unpleasant August evening; but although the minimal audience is understandable it’s also a shame, because CASA offers up a series of clever and diverting interpretations of cultural identity and belonging.

The piece opens with a series of intriguing images: an imperious-looking woman claps her hands sharply to summon the other dancers; a girl in a party frock catwalks across the stage; a dancer struggles to get out of the coat she’s seemingly trapped inside. The images are fleeting and disconnected, raising more questions than they answer, and distract somewhat from the more satisfyingly lengthy central sections of the work.

Five of the six dancers wear heavy woollen coats, which Mazilli cleverly uses to suggest and symbolise various aspects of self and situation. In one duet, the coats become toreador’s capes, the dancers flicking and sweeping the coats in celebration of a lost cultural heritage. Elsewhere, soloist Katja Nyqvist finds and tries on a new coat like a new identity, twisting wriggling with pleasure as she discovers how well it fits. Dancers hide under coat flaps, shrug off coats like old homes or old selves, and share or fight for each other’s garments.

Clare Brzezicki and Nacho Garoz enact a very sweet duet with a curly green clown wig, sharing and playfully snatching it away from each other in a teasing ritual of courtship. In a darker moment, two female dancers try to occupy the same coat, locked in intense competition for control of the space and of the coat itself. One dancer dominates, enveloping the other with arms thrust through the same sleeves with her partner trying to shake her off. Joyce Gyimah is highly watchable as the dominant half of the couple, and I would have liked to see her perform in more of the piece.

_CASA’_s structure is episodic, but some elements cohere better than others. One character – wearing a diaphanous black dress and high heels rather than a coat – seems to be on an altogether different journey from the other performers, separated in space and by costume; it’s never truly clear why this should be. Some of the shorter vignettes add little to the overall theme, and a section performed in the foyer before the audience enters the main space is physically rather hard to watch, obscured from view by the walls of the theatre building.

Despite a few moments that feel surplus to requirements, CASA is overall an interesting and well-realised study of selfhood, cultural identity and the construction of a sense of home. And hopefully the woollen coats will be required only by the cast and not the audience for the rest of the run.

CASA is at Camden People’s Theatre (58-60 Hampstead Road, London, NW1 2PY) from 9th – 13th August 2010 at 9.15pm
Tickets and further information at www.camdenfringe.org

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