“Can we discuss what makes great art”
The Faction theatre company have now become well established with their yearly rep season at the New Diorama so it was something of a pleasant surprise to see them pop up with something extra – Reptember, another rep season but this time made up of single-person shows. Over the next few weeks, they’re presenting three diverse triple bills, featuring new adaptations of some well-known works as writers and actors alike put a Faction-able spin on the world of solo performance. It’s a challenging evening to be sure, closer to three hours than two, but there’s wonderful variety within the programme as the three performances inhabit completely different aesthetics.
First up is Kate Sawyer and Rachel Valentine Smith’s modern take on Lorca’s Duende, an “interactive lecture” on the profound forces that drive the soul of true artists. Its presentation (acted by Sawyer, directed by Smith) is ingeniously conceived and comes as a marvellous surprise. Suffice to say, it demands an expressively physical performance from Sawyer and she fully delivers, vividly entertaining but with a tragicomic note that blooms beautifully late on. Lorca may not have referenced Penélope Cruz, Simon Cowell or Nick Cave directly in his work but the updating is beautifully done and makes great artistic sense.
The glide into the next piece, Goethe’s Faust, is another neatly executed moment as Cary Crankson – an actor of whom I’m much enamoured, destined for great things I’m sure – launches into the familiar tale but through the devilish gaze of Mephistopheles himself. For me though, Gareth Jandrell’s adaptation didn’t quite hit the mark despite the personable presentation. More successful is the hugely atmospheric take on Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece, as Christopher Hughes subsumes himself entirely into the telling of both sides of the tragic Roman tale, transfixing the audience with a blistering intensity that is hard to ignore.