Review: Physical Theatre at the Physicists
The Barron Theatre was, well, barren aside from a row of mismatched chairs in a sloppy row upstage, haphazard blue wiring hanging above fashioned crudely into E=MC² (presumably so that […]
The Barron Theatre was, well, barren aside from a row of mismatched chairs in a sloppy row upstage, haphazard blue wiring hanging above fashioned crudely into E=MC² (presumably so that the audience never forgot the show was, in fact, about physics) and a chair and table in the centre at which sat a motionless man in a state of abject misery.
The play began with the flickering of coloured lights and a voice, accompanied by feedback and static, hissing and screaming into a microphone. Thereby the tone of this delightfully disturbing show was set. Into the sputtering lights, a cast of characters make a staggering entrance, in various states of insanity. The Physicist is a masterfully physical play and the austere set leaves room for the actors to use every inch of the playing area, their tics and convulsions translating into something of a dance at times.
The thin line separating the sane from the insane, a theme of the play, becomes physical in the line between the stage and the audience with the inhabitants of the sanatorium taking their seats in the upstage row. This mirror audience is enraptured by the unfolding action and their mirroring reactions disconcertingly seem to incriminate the real audience in a madness of its own. Mattia Mariotti, essentially a human sound effect, on top of being an impressive director, sat in the centre of this row of madmen providing background noise to accompany the action, an affect, while often amusing, remained unsettling. No visual aspect was neglected. Each character’s face, including those presumably ‘sane’, was painted stark white, shocking under some lights while merely an eerie pallor under others.
The plot itself was rather weak, but the focus instead was on the absurdist elements which were consistently well executed: sometimes subtle, sometimes outrageous, but never overdone and always entertaining. The characters themselves were superbly acted. There was no weak link in the cast. Each actor, from the lead to the background players, displayed an overwhelming, unreserved commitment to the madness of the story and its characters. Brim with characters possessing psychoses that could easily slip into gimmicky territory, the cast managed to exercise control without reservation giving a wonderful naturalistic acting that never felt forced.
The Phycisist is a trifecta: it is well-directed, well-staged and well-acted. It demonstrates an artful mix of chaos and restraint, resulting in a clever pandemonium that absolutely should not be missed.