National Theatre, PowerBook

Review in Issue 14-2 | Summer 2002

PowerBook is part of the NT’s Transformation season, with the remit of providing the opportunity for a new generation of artistic talent. It is somewhat disappointing, then, that this project is devised by Jeanette Winterson, Deborah Warner and Fiona Shaw, all of whom could have graced the Lyttelton at any time of the year. But the disappointment ends there…

I am not a fan of the National and often despair at its programming which, apart from the occasional burst of Lepage or Complicite, tends to be conventional and safe. This piece, however, is a gem. When you enter the refashioned auditorium the scenery is hanging over the stage, being attended to by ‘technicians’. As the house lights dim, these fly out and we enter a whirling mass of video projections of binary and DNA strands. An initial story about a woman disguised as a man who uses a tulip stem to deflower a princess, introduces the love story between the Saffron Burrows and Fiona Shaw characters.

The piece is both tender and funny (Shaw’s dancing should elicit a laugh from even the most po-faced audience member) in its dealing with ‘love and boundaries’. The action unfolds around a series of stories invented by Shaw’s character: some seem real, others fantastical; there is not a through-line here but a series of non-sequiturs connected thematically.

Tom Pye’s set and video projections work beautifully, creating everything from a Parisian nightscape to a Wilsonesque vision of Guinevere’s bedroom, a glass cube into which Lancelot descends from his sky-bound ladder, whilst a giant white horse frolics along the back wall. This was one of those great moments where you sit in the theatre, nod, smile and remember why you do it. If this is what Transformation has in store for us then long may it continue.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. May 2002

This article in the magazine

Issue 14-2
p. 27