Wednesday 17th July 2019 at York Theatre Royal.
There’s a challenge in writing about Theatre Re’s latest Work, Birth, and there are two very specific reasons for this. Firstly, the subject matter benefits from a dark reveal so discussion of the narrative is limited, and secondly, the piece is quite simply ‘poetry in motion’ and as such it’s really quite difficult to put words to. Suffice to say, conceived and directed by Guillaume Pigé and devised by the company, Birth is a beautifully dark and surprising piece of visually gripping physical theatre.
Birth looks at inter-generational relationships as three women explore the experiences of pregnancy and motherhood. Each woman is closely connected to the others and yet within such close bonds lie secrets and acts of self-preservation. There are whimsical scenes of everyday life which lead to surprisingly brutal revelations with the production, bringing ‘taboo’ subjects into the spotlight in a way which is both sensitive and powerful.
Within an excellent company of Eygló Belafonte, Vyte Garriga, Claudia Marciano, Alex Judd, Charles Sandford, Andres Velasquez, it is Belafonte who stands out with an emotionally charged performance which the narrative would suffer immeasurably throughout. As Emily, the pregnant daughter launching into her grandmother’s journal, it is Belafonte with whom the dark revelations rest and it’s also with this character that the story lifts again. There’s not a soul in this company who doesn’t impress here and as a united collective of artists they are certainly a thrilling troupe.
Above all, this is a beautiful production which is thoroughly engaging and more often than not mesmerising (even if the narrative clouds in places). Dialogue is very infrequent and often muffled into familiar sounds rather than clear words – the company present reality but through a lens heightened by theatrical flair so while those vague sounds of communication can be heard, the strengths of the narrative lie in the movement alone.
Transitions work to extend the influence of the preceding scenes and there has never been a large, billowing sheet put to such glorious use in a stage. Really. Conjuring tricks abound as cast members appear, disappear and reappear transformed within just a few moments of skillful movement.
The physical artistry created by the company is mirrored note for note by Alex Judd’s thrilling and moving compositions which are played live in full view, allowing us to see the workings of the violin playing as clearly as the movements it inspires from the company which is a relatively rare treat. Malik Ibheis’s costume designs contribute an aesthetic which is time marked but also in many ways timeless, with more striking and stylised costume used within scenes exploring pregnancy. Dr Katherine Graham’s emotively charged lighting shifts are the finishing touch to what is ultimately a surreal show which features scenes of reality as starting points for abstract ideas and sequences.
Theatre Re are real craftsmen and women in all areas of their work. This piece is something they’ve worked extensively on, researching genuine family histories alongside philosophy and science. The theatrics produced from such research are beautifully succinct and the physicality impressively concise, telling an important story with great feeling and a generous amount of style. Birth is a production which looks at important unspoken truths with great sensitivity and it deserves to be seen by many.
Theatre Re are taking this show to Edinburgh Fringe and along with many before me, I highly recommend you see them if you can – you can find tickets and information here. Birth is produced in association with Glynis Henderson Productions and is Co-commissioned by the London International Mime Festival, The Point Eastleigh, and South Hill Park Arts Centre. Photos: Richard Davenport. Devisors: Louise Wilcox, Eygló Belafonte, Matthew Austin, Claudia Marciano, Stefanie Bruckner, Guillaume Pigé, Alex Judd, Andres Velasquez, Charles Sandford and Vyte Garriga.