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  • Jeason Lewis

Критикът - Наташа Трипни: "Life is a Dream was moody, dark and with visual identity"

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Theatre Zong, Sofia (guest performance at Atelje 212)

This Bulgarian production of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s allegorical drama, presented by the independent company Zong Theatre, is fittingly atmospheric and dreamlike.

Adaptor and director Dina Markova, together with the actor Bojan Arsov, who choreographed the show as well as creating its visual identity, has set the play in a vaguely dystopian landscape, a dreamspace as imagined by Tim Burton. The world it presents is moody and dark. It is populated by weird and sinister characters, including a goth clown, a chap in a dandyish jacket and a hammer-and-sickle T-shirt, a man sporting a Bane-style facemask and wielding a baseball bat, and numerous black-sheeted creatures who look a bit like the wraiths from the TV comedy What We Do in the Shadows – faceless, hissing things.

The show opens with two perky, chirpy figures in black-and-white striped bodystockings – looking very much like the twin offspring of Beetlejuice – playing children’s games. They blow dust off a book (also black-and-white striped), and open it up, underlining one of the play’s key themes about the slppery nature of reality.

Prophesised to overthrow the kingdom when he grows up, Polish prince Segismundo has been kept imprisoned in a tower until he reaches adulthood, when he’s abruptly spat back into the world to ascertain whether or not he has grown into the usurper he was foretold to be. Unaccustomed to life outside his cell, he – perhaps inevitably – struggles with his briefly granted freedom.

Arsov plays Segismundo with his hair hidden under a bald cap, making him look like an elongated infant. He sits huddled in a cell made of stepladders, eventually emerging from his prison blinking and Bambi-limbed, naked except for a tiny black loincloth. These stepladders are the production’s main prop, They form not just his cell, but the world of the play. The actors clamber up and down them or lay planks between the rungs on which they place Segismundo’s prone body.

Arsov gives a committed and intensely physical performance. He tumbles around the stage, rolling around like a child’s wind-up toy, while staring in wonder at his new surroundings. He really throws himself to the role of this unworldly child-man, though there are moments when his performance, with his high-pitched, sing-song delivery, feels a bit grating.

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