The twin narrators of Agota Kristoff's novel, adapted in this fascinating two-hander, stand alone on the stage, dressed to match in the style of Gilbert and George, young boys played by middle-aged men. As they read from their 'compositions', essays written to capture the truth of what they have endured, we learn that they have been driven from their home and into the countryside by a savage war.
Kristoff's novel was firmly rooted in her own childhood experiences of Hungary in the Second World War, while here the boys, their country, the conflict and indeed the century are unnamed.This calculated timelessness fits well with the production's stark minimalism. The actors read from their exercise books throughout and other than occasionally standing and moving their chairs to regard each other from different angles, there is little movement and no set.
But the absence of stage business only focuses the audience's attention on a commanding double act. Robin Arthur and Richard Lowdon painstakingly signal every shift in tone and perception as the brothers shed their naively voyeuristic innocence, adopting the chilly gentility of hardened survivors. It's a feat of tremendous concentration and chemistry, no less than one would expect from a theatre company (Forced Entertainment) whose works have previously ran to 24 hours - The Notebook is a more merciful two.
Some endurance is required on the part of the audience; be prepared for it to overrun by as much as 30 minutes and for an overstretched final act in which the humour and nuance of the story are almost entirely subsumed in grimness. But this is a remarkable and ageless story of young lives warped by conflict, done full justice by an intensely evocative production.
|What||REVIEW: The Notebook, Battersea Arts Centre|
|Where||Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Clapham North (underground)|
03 Nov 15 – 14 Nov 15, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
|Price||£12 - £15|
|Website||Click here to book via Battersea Arts Centre|