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Posted by : TimothyRamsden on Sep 06, 2007 - 03:49 PM Archive

by Lukas Barfuss translated by Neil Blackadder

Gate Theatre 11 Pembridge Road W11 3HQ To 29 September 2007.
Mon-sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
BSL Signed 18 Sept.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7229 0706.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 September.

Startling analysis of the impact of an abnormal mind.

Is this sponsored by a pharmaceuticals company? Swiss-born playwright Luke Barfuss shows what happens when teenage Dora, with her mental and physical difficulties, is taken off chemical medicines. Frank and vulnerable, she’s picked-up at the vegetable stall where she works by an ironically-named Fine Gentleman, a traveller in perfumes, who takes her to his hotel-room.

With adolescent desires and no self-protective filter, Dora’s soon happily *****, as she calmly puts it. While parents and doctor worry over her, all she’s bothered about is that the Gentleman has taken the £5 kept in a locket round her neck with her name and address, in case she gets lost.

Carrie Cracknell’s Gate production emphasises the sense of characters in a limbo, placing the very individual Dora in an abstract setting (also helping with the disturbed choreography between the many short scenes). This world around her is as blank as it must seem to Dora, who picks up on people and language without reflection. Events in her life are manipulated as characters sound bells, objects are represented by painted toy building-blocks, while locations are indicated by models illuminated behind glass.

Yet Dora has a major impact on the adults, revealing her parents’ sexual games and making the Gentleman find something to respect in her. Meanwhile, she too is manipulated; the doctor’s high-flown explanations fly over her, but lead to abortion and sterilisation.

First seen awkwardly scrambling on to the stage, Cath Whitefield’s Dora is fully-imagined, in the subtly delayed responses to others, or the regurgitating what others say to her, copying their speech patterns to give an illusory sense of understanding. Sexual desire spills her body’s limited co-ordination into libidinous postures.

Around this central portrait, other figures are aptly sketchy, just as Barfuss assigns them roles, only Dora a name. In the adults’ understated playing-style, contrasting Dora’s plain frankness, Francis Lee is especially strong as the ruthless seducer who discourages her from washing, complains of her “stink” (something that comes to represent the difficulties all the adults find with Dora) and is eventually affected by the remorseless logic she finds in her simplicity.

Father: Brendan Hughes.
Fine Gentleman: Francis Lee.
Boss: Milton Lopes.
Mother: Eva Magyar.
Boss’s Mother: Di Sherlock.
Doctor: Jack Tarlton.
Dora: Cath Whitefield.

Director: Carrie Cracknell.
Designer: Phil Brunner.
Lighting: Katharine Williams.
Sound: Gareth Fry.
Choreographer: Ben Duke.
Fight director: Alison de Burgh.
Assistant director: Leonie Kubigsteltig.
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