Rajni Shah, Mr Quiver / Chopped Logic, Paramour

Review in Issue 17-4 | Winter 2005

Sprint Festival’s opener is a double-bill that honours the role of the scenographer in contemporary performance…

Rajni Shah’s solo show sets out to ‘explore themes of identity, theatricality, and our relationship to the land we live on’. It is presented here at CPT, in a theatre context, to be subsequently developed as a live art installation. We meet three characters: Rajni as herself, a young British Indian; as Queen Elizabeth the First (epitome of Empire and active ‘masculine’ womanhood); and as a traditional Indian Bride (epitome of the exotic, colonised land and passive ‘feminine’ womanhood). All three characters contain elements of historical fact and imagined fiction and the piece could be said to be a reflection on the balance between the constructed self and that given self which is composed of everything that can be thrown into the catch-all bag of culture.

It’s a beautiful piece – a living work of art created in collaboration with designer Lucille Acevedo-Jones; a show that sees costume not as an embellishment of performance, but integral to the performance – in the driving seat so to speak. The rich tapestry skirt and gorgeously sculpted bodice and ruff of the Elizabeth persona are present on stage as ‘set’, and entering into a fusion with these objects, Shah becomes a sort of dancing sculpture, an inheritor of Oskar Schlemmer’s mantle. The soft red silks of the Bride’s costume dictate a softer choreography, as veiling and unveiling are explored to the accompaniment of live and recorded song and text.

The companion piece Paramour has an altogether different aesthetic, yet one in which visual imagery is also key. It is the first piece created by Chopped Logic, all graduates of the Central School of Speech and Drama. Their stated aim is a theatre in which scenography and text interact – and Paramour could be said to take that premise very literally, with its central visual image a wonderful scattering of inky letters which carpet the stage floor. This is a story about stories, about the constant dialogue between truth and fiction, memory and imagination. The two actors, performing several characters, create an interweaving, multi-layered narrative as stories tumble from their lips and topple into each other like leaves dropping from trees. Performers Gilbert Taylor and Cassie Werber work well together, and on the strength of Paramour, the company is one to look out for, bridging as they do the (ever-shortening) gap between devised theatre and new writing.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jun 2005

This article in the magazine

Issue 17-4
p. 29