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August 18, 2013 9:00 pm
Chilean theatre company Teatro Cinema returns to the Edinburgh International Festival with its trademark blend of live action and film projection. In 2010, the company’s director Juan Carlos Zagal treated festival audiences to Sin Sangre – part-recorded footage, part-live theatre, adapted from a novella by Alessandro Baricco and styled as a B-movie thriller – and to The Man Who Fed Butterflies, an original piece that used computer-generated imagery to poetic effect. Histoire d’amour is the final part of this loose trilogy, and it is both technically more sophisticated and theatrically less engrossing than the previous two.
As in those productions, the actors occupy a portion of the stage between two huge transparent screens on to which moving images are projected, in place of a set. But instead of film footage or CGI, the world of Histoire d’amour is depicted in monochrome graphic novel-style animation. The two actors, Julián Marras and Bernardita Montero, move seamlessly through their illustrated city, even pouring projected wine bottles and fighting with silhouette figures. It is meticulously choreographed, with stylised freeze frames and shifting perspectives – the actors are never an inch out of place, never breaking the spell.
And yet the plot is disappointingly thin. Adapted from a novel by Régis Jauffret about the obsessive relationship between an English teacher and the woman he sees on the metro one day, the play attempts to explore the warped psyche of a stalker. The main character is by turns manipulative and vicious, pathetic then almost normal-seeming. Spoken in Spanish with English surtitles, the play is almost entirely his monologue, and he tells us everything he’s thinking, from how he imagines the woman’s naked body (this is not a family-friendly show) to the fact that he’s really a good guy who saves part of his salary each month and goes to bed early. The trouble is that his history and motivations are unclear – and the female character, who utters only a few words, is a cipher.
Histoire d’amour is at home in this year’s Edinburgh International Festival programme, with its theme of art and technology, and it will doubtless delight those interested in how new technologies can be used in the theatre. But when it comes to a gripping plot or vivid characterisation, the festival has more to offer.
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