The Sprint Festival has certainly kicked off at breakneck speed – Atresbandes’s Locus Amoenus has crafted a neat, hilarious and charming show that felt right at home in the small black box venue.
At the start of Locus Amoenus, (meaning ‘pleasant place’ in Latin, for anyone not up to scratch on their classics (or ready to Wiki-it)), we are told in no uncertain terms that the three train passengers, each sat obliviously on the stage, were going to die in a derailment accident in hour. None of them would survive. It is a deft move, instantly warping conventional narrative structure. Everything seen in the show is dictated by this teleology, as the three characters speed towards their deaths. There is a fundamental difference between audience and actor – we, privy to the impossible, they, continuing their absurd and engaging lives.
The concept works well, as do the actors in their respective parts. Locus Amoenus was, fundamentally, incredibly funny – each actor using tempo, translation error and an impressive skill with bag zips for remarkable effect. The tone of the piece was utterly absurdist, influenced, according to the production team, by the likes of Dürrenmatt or von Trier. Indeed, the structural nature and the use of an authoritative and omnipresent narrative voice was reminiscent of the likes of Dogville or Europe. There were even hints of the fantastic Duncan Jones film Source Code. The comedy was flamboyant, undistllled, and thrived on audience reaction. Some of the gags, especially the drawn out and increasingly surreal episodes of extended laughter or weeping attempted by the cast, did feel slightly overdrawn, but this never impacted the overall pacing of the performance as it lilted inexorably towards its conclusion.
The technical team must also be applauded – constructing a natural yet absorbing technical environment. Music and headphones were synchronised with ease, and the only major lighting change came with the death of a passing rabbit, a symbolic moment bringing the show to its closing minutes.
What Locus Amoenus ‘meant’ is hard to pin down. Quotes from 1984 flashing up on the screen, or press releases discussing an attempt at reaching ‘ultimate paradise’, seemed slightly misleading and attempt to impose a definition that didn’t feel satisfying. Locus Amoenus felt much more like a love letter to the trivialities of life – to the sentences lost in translation, the absence of toilet paper, or the accidental and awkward encounters with your neighbours on the train. It is in these moments, doomed to be forgotten or lost by the passage of time (or the derailment of your public transport), that humanity really emerges. A fantastic show in the middle of what is surely a fruitful tour.
Devised and performed by Mònica Almirall Batet, Miquel Segovia Garrell, Albert Pérez Hidalgo
Voice recordings by Iara Solano Arana, Sammy Metcalfe Lighting Design by Alberto Rodríguez
Sound design by Joan Solé Produced by Outer Circle Arts