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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Buxton 2011
Strangers / Etrangers
Published on Saturday, 09 July 2011

2 stars

Underground Venues - Pauper's Pit
8 Jul, 9:15pm-10:15pm; 9, 16 Jul, 3:15pm-4:15pm; 18 Jul, 7:45pm-8:45pm
Reviewed by Alice de Cent

Drawing on the evocative world of French cinema, using both projected scene titles and a script with liberal sprinklings of French, Strangers/Etrangers delves into the story of two lovers who share a superficial intimacy, but must confront the necessity of saying “I love you”. Regrettably, where it aims to be enigmatic, it often achieves only confusion.

Sheryl Clowes’ script has charm, and the opening interchanges were absorbing, as we begin to untangle the characters’ relationship. It was perhaps intentional that we are never truly let into the world below the surface, but I personally was left feeling unsatisfied because of this. The emotional climax of the play was muted by the fact that I was unable to form any real attachment to either of the characters.

The actors gave committed and competent performances throughout, but could perhaps benefit from embracing the superficiality of the text more fully and heightening their delivery (although to be fair, the restrained feel may have been due to a small first-night audience). There was some tripping over lines and fumbling with props that could be straightened out for a more elegant performance, which would give their characters further to fall. The more sophisticated they appear at the start of their journey, the more affected I would have been when we are finally allowed a glimpse below the surface. 

Some of the confusion might be down to opening-night glitches. Mismatched surtitles, for example, left the audience completely in the dark about certain exchanges; and it’s hard to be too harsh on a simple technical mistake. But there were sections, too, where the positioning of the actors obscured the projection completely, and I was unable to follow the meaning of the dialogue. There’s room to adapt the piece for the needs of the space.

There is a concept here that is intriguing in its simplest form – but perhaps it would be most successful as a short film, that could use the techniques it references to more completely realise the vision. There were some good moments, and the performances were admirable, but the piece tended too far towards superficiality to satisfactorily fill an hour’s stage time. It needs more structural work before it can truthfully render a genuine fear of intimacy.

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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.