Off to Greenwich to see Handspring's latest show based on Ted Hughes' Crow poems. It's a strange mixture of the expected innovative puppetry and a rather unsophisticated, almost naive use of choreography and verse speaking. It's a bit of a muddled evening, Hughes abstract, nihilistic mediation on creation doesn't transfer easily to stage and much of the dark undertow of the work is made meaningless by the over literal interpretation of the production.
There are side lights, the almost obligatory disembodying microphones and a huge rubbish tip of a set on which the sack cloth dressed cast perch whilst waiting to swoop into manipulative action. None of these choices feel right, they simply offer a rather cliched vocabulary for a tired form of dance theatre.
With each episode Crow, in his cunning existential battle with God, grows larger, more demanding, more dangerous and this expansion of an idea gives the company an opportunity to take a simple puppet and develop its mechanics over the course of the hour into a monstrous writhing phallic creation. This is what they're good at but from gentle peck to astonishing pecker, War Horse this isn't!
Ultimately the work is rather dull, mono paced and lacking the textured nuance of the original work. I couldn't help feeling this was a company still coming to terms with the possibilities of the text on which they'd chosen to work, rather than insightful artists reaching out for a coherent and satisfying realisation.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.