Theatre Mirror Reviews - "ENGLAND / my arm"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Carl A. Rossi

"ENGLAND / my arm"

two performance pieces by Tim Crouch

directed by Karl James and A. Smith
performed by Tim Crouch and Hannah Ringham

my arm
directed by Tim Crouch and Karl James
performed by Tim Crouch
film sequences by Chris Dorley-Brown

Performance pieces challenge those who must describe them, afterwards. These pieces lean towards the subjective, the personal; the critic struggles to remain objective, impersonal. The performers are trees, up close; the critic steps back to view the overall forest. Should the creators not lay down the rules, beforehand --- i.e., what the audience will be seeing --- the critic must fabricate a narrative to the best of his interpretative knowledge (or fall back on “Each of you must take the journey and reach your own conclusions…”).

Picture yourself inside an art gallery (no pun, intended). Two of its guides, male and female, begin talking at you (not to you) in alternating dialogue, thanking you for saving their lives and continuing on to Art and London and Boyfriend (whose?). You think “impressionistic tone poem” and listen more than watch, and when heart-illness and dying thread their way in and the speakers become characters (or, rather, a dual-character), you listen and watch with different ears, different eyes, though you’re not out of the forest, yet. You are led to another room where you sit down as a traditional audience and the guides become the recovered patient of a heart transplant visiting the foreign widow whose husband supplied the life-giving organ (“thank you for saving my life”) and presenting her with a piece of his artwork (symbolically, “England”). The tone poem jells into drama, and you finally think, “Ah!” Those were my impressions of ENGLAND, performed by its author Tim Crouch and Hannah Ringham at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art courtesy of News From Nowhere which produces Mr. Crouch’s work (ENGLAND was commissioned to be performed in art galleries and has been, internationally). I got lost among the trees, several times, but Mr. Crouch and Ms. Ringham were beautifully cadenced, throughout, and, at the end, movingly so. Still, a map would have been helpful.

Mr. Crouch gave an evening performance of his solo piece my arm --- he came out in his street clothes, thanked us for attending and collected pocket contents from audience members to be used as characters when flashed onto a nearby television screen, accompanying a nude, jointed male doll representing the actor. Mr. Crouch proceeded to tell us about his growing up on the Isle of Wight, backed by grainy childhood film clips, and how he achieved escalating celebrity and notoriety, early on, by holding up one arm to the point of petrification. As Mr. Crouch’s tale unfolded I thought him a bizarre and unhappy man; only near the end did I realize that all was fabrication --- a “what if?” carried to absurd lengths; thus, I traveled through my arm with the wrong perspective. Should I ever see Mr. Crouch perform ENGLAND and my arm, again, I would now know what was going on and could appreciate the journeys for what they are rather than looking for the light at the end of two sixty-minute tunnels.

"ENGLAND / my arm" (13-15 November)
100 Northern Avenue, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 478-3100

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide