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Published on Tuesday, 23 August 2011

3 stars

Zoo (venue website)
5-14, 16-24, 26-29 Aug, 1:45pm-2:45pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

This is a gentle, moving and deeply personal show in which poet Martin Figura explains the story of his childhood. Set against a backdrop of post-war Britain, Martin’s aspirational mother meets his Polish immigrant father and together they create a family. But Figura’s father’s time in the war had scarred him deeply – in ways that became tragically apparent only when he murdered Figura’s mother and was sent to Broadmoor.

The tragic figure of Figura’s mother is the centre of this story, and the slide show that accompanies Martin’s narration includes many photos of her. The young woman we see, smiling and excited about the future, is someone we know from the start will be a victim of a horrible crime; but still we can’t help wishing events would take a different course as we see her shining eyes. One of the most haunting parts of the show is the readings of his mother’s letters to her husband-to-be: so full of hope, excitement and a lust for life.

Figura’s dark and brooding poems form the core of the piece. Standing half in shadow and very still, he narrates the story through them. However, at points the whole thing felt too understated. I’m aware that material like this could tip over into melodrama or soap opera, but Figura seemed stiff through the show, as if he were behind glass. Perhaps that’s why my favourite part of the show was the most energetic and lively, the poem, The Vineyard Boys, a rowdy tumble of a piece with hard rhythms that lent themselves wonderfully to performance poetry.

The ending of the show, with themes of salvation and redemption was suitably uplifting, and there is no doubt that the story of Figura’s childhood is darkly fascinating. But in the end I felt quite distanced by the still and laid-back mood.

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