Hole In The Wall, Exeter
Fergus Rattigan’s physical theatre piece Primal is an intensely intimate and explosively abstract exploration of human impulses. In a boldly conceptual piece cast and crew present an hour of wrenching rivalries and all-consuming desires in a primeval, mythical realm. Squeezed into creaking leather sofas the opening night audience were inches from the action and at times even these precious, reassuring inches were refused.
Within the opening moments I found myself desperately scrabbling for a grip on the production. With the off-handed mixture of familiar concepts such as the Garden of Eden with cardboard boxes of fluffy toys the pace and nature of Primal pulled the ground from beneath my feet.
However, the hypnotic soundtrack focused my attention on the movements themselves and I found myself caught in the forceful portrayal of primal urges. The use of the human body to demonstrate these rhythmic desires was bold, the cast dealt successfully with a daring sex scene by incorporating dance movements into their piece. The alterations of pace, body shape and line demonstrated the physicality of the act in a unique style that paid off.
For me it was the most experimental aspects of Primal which sparked my enjoyment of the production. I cannot fault the acting of any involved but I found myself utterly captivated by the mythical figures of Trickster, played by Alys Morgan Pearce and Shadow, played by Sydney Robertson. The charismatic rivalry between these mythical counterparts lit up the stage and rocked the audience between nervous laughter and outright anxiety.
Speaking to Robertson after the show the third year drama student explained that as Shadow “possesses a force of Nature” he wanted to “distance” himself “from human characteristics to add to Shadow’s menacing element and avoid potential empathy from the audience.” Robertson mastered this mythical role with unnerving, Gollum-like contortions of his body. The wary audience watched and willed for the intervention of the female Trickster, his endearing antithesis, and their next fiery confrontation.
Theatre With Teeth came literally roaring onto the stage with this riveting, daring and driven piece. Credit to all involved for this thrilling spark of originality.
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