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Uncle Vanya & Women Dreamt Horses
3:32pm Thursday 27th May 2010 in Your reviews
By Tony Taras
As the finale of the Festival approached on a beautiful sun-kissed Sunday, my visitor asked what I was watching that evening. All I could explain was I was seeing a double-bill of Uncle Vanya and Women Dreamt Horses performed in Spanish with English subtitles I had booked some time back.
She gently suggested I should consider skipping it to enjoy her good company and all else Brighton and Hove were offering outdoors. By the look of it everyone was on the Lawns.
I knew nothing about the theatre company, know no Spanish but know Uncle Vanya is a classic play and for some reason didn’t want to show disrespect to the performers, who after all were visitors themselves.
I politely declined my visitor's suggestion conceding I could leave the theatre if it was not my cup of tea. And off I went.
The double bill at the Corn Exchange started with the performance of 'Women Dreamt Horses' which I became rapidly mesmerised in whilst desperately trying to finish a couple of tweets as my eyes constantly sought the English subtitles above the actors heads to explain the powerful actions on-stage.
As it went on I forgot the outdoors and felt I was watching some Pedro Almodóvar film. Transfixed, I tingled at the sudden climax.
I bought a Programme in the interval looking for the synopsis of what I had and would be watching. I am not going to attempt to explain the two stories because they are not simple straightforward boy meets girl. They are deeply layered complex pieces better explained by those who study these pieces so if you really want to understand the stories then I suggest you go Google or Wiki.
It also turns out that Daniel Veronese, who wrote both these pieces, is huge in Argentina. 'It has not become unusual to find multiple Veronese projects running concurrently in Buenos Aires' as the programme notes states.
What Veronese pulls together; re-works; re-imagines is the likes of Ibsen, Genet and Chekhov, after which the title 'Uncle Vanya' on the programme is noted as being modelled by 'Veronese after Chekhov'.
And it shows. This is performance and writing that belongs in the National Theatre and here is was being performed at Brighton’s Pavilion Theatre directed by no other than Daniel Veronese.
As to why I thought this was the highlight of the Brighton Festival for me: perhaps it was watching the production in Spanish listening to the rhythm and song of Spanish whilst reading the occasional mis-cued English subtitles trying to marry the two like a badly dubbed film.
Or perhaps it was the sheer intensity and drive of each character's objectives and actions that rose above any language barrier. The interaction and flow of words could have come from a highly-refined fly-on-the-wall reality documentary. There were occasions in the heat of arguments, words were being delivered piping hot from each of the characters and so concurrent, it broke my expectation of theatre performances.
When you come to think of it, whether you are listening to an heated exchange in the House of Commons or watching a party in Channel 4's Big Brother where everyone is speaking at the same time, 'someone' is either nearer a microphone than another or a Sound Engineer is accentuating 'a' voice to create a narrative. What the audience got was a cacophony of voices reminiscent of cocky sparrows chest-blowing on a spring morning.
The first purpose of theatre is to entertain. The second to educate. Both of these were delivered overwhelmingly in that order, making it a beautifully fitting end to the Brighton Festival for me, complementing the near dark night sky and lingering warmth of the day as I cycled home after.