views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Etcetera Theatre
26th August 2016


Publicity image for Glaucoma

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

Never mind fighting for your right to party, CapaTaro's debut production Glaucoma is about encouraging young people to fight for their rights to, well, do absolutely everything. It's a very bold and very generalised call for action. This devised piece follows three political rebels (Ines Sampaio, Alice Wolff-Whitehouse and Eleanor Hurrelll), locked up by a nameless big, bad government who will stop at nothing to trick them into conforming to their unfair rules. The women's voices are dangerous and to be silenced.

The initial scenes are rather ambiguous and intriguing with some beautiful choreography from Leah Kirby. Vivid purple and blue lights illuminate the translucent fabric surrounding each performer and create a striking backdrop and foreground for them to push and pull against. The trio test the walls of their seemingly vibrant gauze jellyfish-esque prisons, exploring the different parts of their small individual spaces. They dance to a soundscape of evocative, almost tribal noises and also harmonise some very simple notes together in a melodious and melancholic wail, fostering a sense of pained unity. Together they are fighting against the few in favour of the many: their cause is unclear, but their shared values and commitment to them is evident. It feels like a long time before anyone speaks and there's something appealing about this lack of dialogue.

There is a distinct shift in tone with the subsequent introduction of a fourth player. Kirby is a grotesque of a nurse, a lawyer and a politician, in a move which is obviously supposed to elicit more sympathy for the would-be freedom fighters, however feels overly jarring to be effective. With the narrative kept so deliberately vague, these official-type characters threatening our protagonists need to be relatable rather than surreal for the story to feel truly universal. The clash of styles doesn't really work, especially with the contrast of the nurse and the lawyer. Interestingly enough, the caricature of a politician doesn't actually come across as too far-fetched, which I suppose is a strong political comment in itself.

At under 40 minutes, there isn't really enough time to properly dedicate to a particular issue, but it does nonetheless feel like the focus is kept a bit too all-encompassing. Glaucoma is a production designed to rally the troops and we're left wondering whether CapaTaro want us to help those in our neighbourhood in food poverty or campaign against global warming. What exactly are we rallying the troops to do? Creating a show that encourages activism for absolutely everything is overambitious - picking just one problem important to the company and focusing on it would give their overall message more weight, even if the time constraints prevent them from going into as much detail as they would like.

It's pleasing to see so much energy from a new company, with lot of different ideas and concepts thrown at the piece with the aim of establishing what sticks. However, CapaTaro need to direct that enthusiasm for their next run into a clearer narrative arc that speaks more strongly to their audience. Glaucoma is an interesting and brave piece of multidisciplinary theatre that may not know exactly what it wants to say, yet still comes across as fiercely political and with signs of promise.

Glaucoma ran from 24th to 28th August 2016 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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