Thursday 16th June 2022 at Harrogate Theatre
Retake, Remake! seeks to take back air time. Over the years, many movies, TV shows and various other platforms have given storylines specifically depicting those with learning disabilities to actors without such lived experiences. As such, the depictions in those storylines are often out of kilter with reality, and this production takes us on a lively journey to reflect on such practices.
The show is a devised piece from The Lawnmowers Independent Theatre Company which takes the audio from such movies and “remakes” the moment by placing performers with learning disabilities centre stage. Yet while the production tackles the injustice of that misrepresentation, it strikes a relatively gentle note by incorporating plenty of humour and charm through knowing looks, sardonic posturing and pompous gesturing as they mime along to the audio.
A cast of four – Chris Moules, Andrew McLeod, Cameron Thompson, Andrew Robson and Andy Stafford – take on this whistle- stop tour of the don’ts and dont’s of representation. Their energetic delivery of the choreography and their tongue-in-cheek take on the dialogue give the production much of its charm. In fact, one of the crowning highlights of this piece is the veritable treasure trove of bops! Taking cues from lines of movie dialogue, our actors bounce their way through snippets of toe-tapping tunes which not only serve to entertain but neatly serve to set the pace.
The overall approach is an interesting one; video projection from Adam Goodwin doesn’t just punctuate the show, it dominates it as the visuals – be they stylised illustrations, stock images of landscapes or parody montages of our cast – are a constant. This makes for visually appealing and varied storytelling but it also at times distracts us from the actors on stage and becomes a little repetitive as we head towards the 60 minute mark. Despite this, Jan Willem Van Den Bosch’s direction provides an impressive sense of cohesion despite the fragmented nature of a show like this which takes its material from so many sources.
A particularly winning element of this production is a result of that prominent projection. As our cast stand between two screens, there’s some impressive layering of projections which allows for some cinematic depth, offering larger than life moments which feel almost holographic in dimension. This is particularly effective when we are asked to engage with each actor in turn as they reflect on their own sense of identity now that they finally have an opportunity to grasp the soap box for themselves.
Retake, Remake! takes a lively, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant stand against the marginalisation of people when it comes to the telling of their own stories. With a spotlight on films like Forest Gump and Rain Man alongside audio of interviews about dating, sex and recitations of textbook notes on Eugenics (marred slightly in impact by the errors of the automated captions), there’s a lot here. That said, the platform has been a long time coming, so the breadth of material nicely highlights the longevity of such neglect. Ultimately, the piece asks for acknowledgement of the wrongs of the past and asks for greater respect in the future – a resounding message of defiance neatly packaged in a meaningful and often playful production.
Retake, Remake! tours until the 29th September 2022 and you can find your tickets here.