Monday, 1 October 2012

Moving and memorable

On Saturday, I went down to Warwick to see Martin Figura's one-man-show, Whistle. I've written before about the Arrowhead collection on which it's based, and I'd heard a lot of good things about it, so I was intrigued as to how, exactly, it would be performed.

Essentially, Figura keeps things simple - he's facing the audience throughout, reciting the poems and a small amount of linking material against a backdrop of photographs. These montages worked extremely well, for me - they add to the words, rather than simply illustrating exactly what's being said, and you can dip in and out of them, if you prefer (although they held the attention well). And of course, they're vital to the story, because Figura is a fine photographer himself, and his father was rarely without a camera without which to document his family's life.

The whole thing is very understated - if you're expecting anything remotely melodramatic, you're not going to get it here. The focus is as much on the social history and the small details of a post-war childhood as on the stark central fact of the piece - Figura's father's murder of the poet's mother.

But for me, that made that central fact all the more horrifying. The impact of the show was all the more jarring for the fact that everybody involved was utterly ordinary and recognisable. It also helps you understand the forgiveness that colours the closing third of the show, and ultimately makes it an uplifting experience.

Figura has a knack (unsurprising given that photographic background, of course) of suddenly bringing a particular detail or scene into very sharp focus, momentarily, before slipping back into an almost conversational tone, and that helps bring that central fact into focus too. There's humour, and a reluctance to aim for a sense of easy closure, with questions of redemption left hanging, all adding up to a moving, memorable experience.

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