Grimly Handsome by Julia Jarcho, The Site At The Royal Court Theatre, 22 December 2017

Experimental theatre. Installation theatre. Menippean satire, anyone? Julia Jarcho’s work is hard to categorise, apparently.

But this installation piece won awards in the USA and was chosen by the Royal Court as its pilot piece for a new chunk of SW1 real estate recently acquired sort-of next door to the Royal Court overlooking the tube platform; The Site.

Here is a link to the Royal Court resource on this play/production.

Sounded intriguingly weird and we thought we’d give it a try.

Sounded weird…WAS weird

About 20 minutes before the start of the play we were invited in to tour the installation, which was Christmas-themed and included a Christmas tree sales yard, a young woman’s bedroom, a gym, a cordoned-off crime scene that looked seriously grim…about 10 different scenes.

We were offered a cup of mulled wine for this tour, which Janie (Daisy) and I both declined, neither of us liking mulled wine. Several people took and drank the wine, while bemoaning their dislike of the stuff. Some people.

Then the show itself. The main performance space and seating area for the audience was scattered with video screens which could show, via CCTV cameras, the scenes we had toured.

A young woman dressed in some sort of animal suit operated the lights, the cameras the TV screens and even, at a couple of points, a cooker. Despite her pivotal role in the piece, from what I can gather she gets no credit in the programme or on-line at all, which feels wrong.

The three performers were simply superb. It is a very physical piece and the three actors have to keep changing roles – especially the female character who plays four different roles in the 90 minute piece.

Janie and I were really divided on this one.

I thought the piece very interesting and enjoyed its humour, gruesomeness and strangeness in equal measure.

Janie simply found it perplexing.

I felt I was doing fine deciphering the piece until the final part, in which all three actors were, apparently, red pandas, although one of the characters was gnawing away at the bones of (presumably) the murdered humans from the earlier parts and red pandas are strictly veggie, despite being quite closely related to carnivorous scavengers such as raccoons.

Even I struggled to decipher the last part, but I think that was supposed to be the idea.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, while Janie I think felt she could have done without feeling bemused at the end of a hard-working week just before Christmas.

Here is a link to help you find the mixed reviews from this Royal Court production – more agreeing with me than with Daisy I think, but it is not a competition.

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