A Crown of Laurels is a production that is full of surprises. Firstly, it seems such a contemporary piece with the not unfamiliar scenario of single girl disappointed in love and frustrated with friends with partners. This is a situation she herself would like to be in but men are proving elusive. So out and about she goes hitting the town, the bars and the clubs.
However, this modern tale is rooted in the classical past as our female professional protagonist searches for fun and intimacy only to be faced with a sexual power struggle that results in assault – this is the tale of Daphne and Apollo revisited in a modern day setting. They may be no longer great deities but as Daphne suffered at the hands of her assailant so does our modern young woman. Her signals are misread and the young man does not take no for an answer. Apollo, when exercising his power, turned our Daphne into a laurel tree so today the power struggle continues and if not turned into a laurel then turned to stone, a emotionally hardened silent stone. Victimised and abused she keeps it to herself but eventually she has the courage to speak up and talk to her assailant’s lead partner. Yes, he suffers the loss of his job but he is quickly absorbed back into a professional life whereas she is in an emotional wilderness navigating an emotional life she did not expect to deal with.
Theatrically the piece is a challenge to deliver with just two main performers who carry the emotional thrust of the piece and deliver several ballads and duets with some verve. Both create a range of other characters in various locations, some more successfully than others. Considering what the piece is dealing with the dramatic narrative feels rushed as it quickly moves from one episode to another. The accompaniment to the songs was not always kind to the ear and if at times I considered that to be almost Brechtian in style at other moments it was simply not as tuneful or melodic as it might have been. Vocally it was clear but often the songs were delivered in a stilted manner without much reference to the surrounding environment. Glasses were held which seemed never to be used for drinking with crowds hardly noticed and motivation was not always focused with lines often rushed and then at times performances were angled up stage.
Often the accompaniment was fussy and distracting as in Bathe in the River, though it had a certain emotional layering. The piece written by Rabinovitz & Hay is certainly interesting as it pulls the modern day dilemma of sexual assault to meet the idea of classical indoctrination. It suggests that our art world, both images and titles and therefore narrative has presented a backdrop of violence perpetrated by men upon women which we have not only come to accept but are unaware of. We seem devoid of any connection between how we live out our lives in relation to the cultural world around us which is forever present and it reinforces values of violation at a subliminal level.This is challenging material that Rabinovitz & Hay are tackling and they are certainly talents to watch out for.
A Crown of Laurels is a worthy exploration of the power between men and women. Certainly reframing the classical story is interesting and linking it to a sexually exploitative arts industry that is worth billions is fascinating. The line ‘or change my form ‘ does resonate with us as we see the female protagonist change and articulate her feelings of violation and in our ‘me too’ environment that seems an empowering message. However, the narration and lyric drives much of the dramatic nature of the piece and so it proves a challenge to empathise with the characters and as we are left rather like a voyeur in art gallery passing a static picture without fully engaging with the nature of the content.
152 Paradise in Augustines – The Sanctuary
15:00 Aug 10