Academy Production Acts, Without Words

Review in Issue 8-2 | Summer 1996

The company presented three clown-mime pieces, Acts Without Words I & II by Samuel Beckett and Speechless, a devised work. The two rarely performed Beckett shorts offered the potential for a superb exploration of Beckett’s world of play between banality and profundity; the banality of the stupid clown lost in the profound emptiness of existential existence. In this world a small gesture takes on enormous power, yet in Acts Without Words I & II the performers, Paka and David Annen, had practised these small gestures with such concentration on technique that both forgot to enjoy the moment on stage. Rather they gave technically precise but emotionally disconnected performances that raised little more than a titter. I was left wondering whether this was the desired reaction – to not be amused by the stupidity and antics of a character attempting to climb upon a large block balancing on a small one or another haphazardly dressing and undressing – but rather to sense only the desperate tragi-comedy of existence through viewing these hapless acts? Dramatically though, I would have been far more moved if I had been drawn into this world by the performers. Instead I was left out, wondering upon the old criticism of British actors only acting from the neck-up and how in this production two skilled physical performers could be accused of only acting from the neck down. The art of clowning is to make the technique invisible so that the audience lives in the moment of the character’s folly, all we saw here was the technique.

In Speechless the actors revealed themselves to be quite capable of precision and emotional contact giving a much more fluid and powerful performance than in the two Beckett pieces. A case perhaps of too much reverence and not enough pleasure.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Mar 1996

This article in the magazine

Issue 8-2
p. 20