A Flower of the Lips

16 Oct

Theatre’s greatness as an art form derives from its acknowledgement of Time.

Time means flux. Characters change. Theatre suggests the fluidity, and hence the ineffability, of Life. (How easy it would have been in the last sentence to use the word ‘captures’ rather than ‘suggests’; how easy, and how false.)

Our relationship with the past is like our relationship with other people – often crucial but never concrete. (To say to another ‘I know you entirely’ is not the language of love but rather of control.)

In Valentino Musico’s play A Flower of the Lips the playwright explores his relationship with a chapter of his family history. In Calabria, post World War One, Musico’s great grandfather was in the unenviable position of chasing down deserters.

It’s tense, intriguing and true…….if ‘true’ is the right word.

How does Musico ‘capture’ the past? He’s done the research and so the play is part-documentary. There is even a character representing the playwright, narrating the proceedings.

But Musico knows this attempt at objectivity is not enough. The past must be allowed its wildness, so Musico creates a theatrical world imbued with elements of both magical realism and commedia dell’arte. Poetry plays with supposed actuality.  Director Ira Seidenstein does terrific work with this engaging script, using simple staging and eliciting fascinating performances from the cast: Michelle De Rosa, Marcella Franco, Jamila Hall, Yiss Mill and Kiki Skountzos. The decision to cast female actors in all the roles other than the narrator is powerfully subversive.

Sometimes it can feel as though our past presses down upon us, dominating our present. To be reminded that the past is a story we tell ourselves, that omniscience is beyond us, is a beautiful acknowledgement of Time and its gift of Hope.

Veronica Kaye

A Flower of the Lips by Valentino Musico

King Street Theatre til 24 October


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