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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Buxton 2011
Love And Loss: Tales From Imagined Lands
Published on Saturday, 09 July 2011

4 stars

Underground Venues - Barrel Room
9-10, 22 Jul, 2:15pm-3:15pm; 12 Jul, 5:30pm-6:30pm
Reviewed by Ian Hamilton

Storytelling is a new departure for me, but I was enthralled by an hour in the company of Kat Quartermass and her interwoven tales. The structure is clever; the writing and delivery are excellent. The stories have their origins in mythology and fairy tales, but Quatermass has rewritten them and given them her own personal touch.

A subtitle for the show might have been “stories of fading away”, as many of them have that common theme. We begin with a weaving-girl and a young cowherd – whose tale tells of the contrasting pleasure of conjugal relations, the irritation of living together day-to-day, and the joy of making up. In no time, this leads to a sequence of stories within stories – that of Jorinde and Joringel, who lose each other and can only be reunited if he can dream her back; the mythical Zeus and nymphs, including Hero and Echo, Narcissus and Nemesis; and my personal favourite, the achingly beautiful and sad Innuit tale of Noaja and Iknik. In between we are given tantalising snippets – a Parisian café, or a young man off to war – which Quartermass breaks off as if suddenly distracted, leaving the audience curious for more. The stories are seamlessly sewn together, appropriately enough by the weaving-girl.

Quartermass is an engaging performer, who has an empathy both with her characters and her audience. Occasionally she challenges the audience directly – “one day per year, would that be enough for you?” – and she plainly feels the pain and pleasure of the characters she has created. The pace of her delivery is varied to good effect, as is her dynamic range. There are moments when the poetry is stunning – I loved the image of the river of stars brought about by the sky being ripped, and the cobalt and silver birds.

Those familiar with fairy tales will recognise some of these stories. Quartermass draws her inspiration from Greek and Innuit mythology, and from Grimm, amongst others. She has altered them considerably, though – for example changing the ending of the Eskimo tale, and bringing Jorinde and Joringel into a modern age of alcopops and X-boxes.

This is not drama as you might be used to: the setting is bare, there are no props, and Quartermass is a solitary figure in black and amber. At times her mime and theatrical gestures are hampered by the confined space of the venue. But she is a compelling performer with some wonderfully rewoven material, and her delivery is spellbinding. The show would be ideal for children if it weren’t for some of the more “adult” language and content – but for older children and adults, I thoroughly recommend that you come and see the first outing for this very moving show.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2011.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.