Based on “Moony’s Kid Don’t Cry” by Tennessee Williams and “Working” by Studs Terkel
Director: Annie Saunders
Reviewer: Chris Rogers
Standing at the ramshackle bar of Marylebone Gardens in what used to be a BBC building, one immediately gets the underground flavour, the grit that the aptly named Wilderness are bringing toward their theatrical experience. It is well staffed and cosy, and though the performance starts a touch late and we are told to leave our bags and drinks as the area will be tight, the professional handling of the space is apparent.
Entering into an elongated corridor it becomes strikingly obvious how much detail has gone into this performance. It is beautiful: Strings of fairylights and glowing bulbs illuminate the décor, hundreds of hand crafted paper rings and suits and shirts fashion drapings for the audience to marvel at as they promenade into the first performance space with another few spaces to follow, from a lowly flat to a wealthy sitting room and a rather bare bath.
The Day Shall Declare it is a physical theatre piece mainly inspired by Tennesee William’s one-act play “Moony’s Kid Don’t Cry” and the book ‘Working’ by Studs Terkel. The core idea behind it is the notion of work. In her own words Annie Saunders says:“When the recession hit, the personal, private question of the meaning of working – “what do I want to do?” versus “what will I live on?” – seemed to become immediately, drastically public. I wanted to make a piece that explored this and looked to a similar historical moment, the Great Depression, and the extensive canon of American labour plays. This piece is an effort to creatively conflate these period texts with a free-form theatrical model and contemporary movement score, echoing the responses of the current moment, such as Occupy Wall Street, which for me took on a powerful and spontaneous choreography of its own.”
“Working” supplies the choreography with quotes of repetition while Williams is explored for personal drama, but how does one translate the everyday poetry of Tennessee Williams into what Annie Saunders calls a “contemporary movement score”? The answer is ‘very well’, apparently. The choreography is beautiful and excellently executed. Though the language of the choreography is nothing new and works in well-known syllables of Lecoq and Meyerhold, one cannot fault the excellent use of space and stunning incorporation into the text. Together with the gritty design of space and an excellent soundtrack, Wilderness’ greatest coup is to get you to feel the individual relationships at a certain era within the piece.
A minor point of discontent is that the piece seems at times disjointed. “People have to work to find coherence.” laments Saunders’ character, but it is precisely this coherence between scenes that the searching audience may lack as the company ventures from heightened moment to heightened moment. This is where Tenessee Williams’ touch may have been further explored, to find the quiet within the relationship storms.
Ultimately though the original quote in Corinthians tells us “…and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”, and it is obvious how well this piece has been forged. Chris Polick, Anthony Nikolchev and Annie Saunders have immersed themselves entirely into the world they wander in and are excellent in their portrayals. The piece lives in its stunning incorporation into space and music and is (despite the occasional scurry of a British audience member to make way for the performers) excellently directed.
In the sometimes static World of the West End, Wilderness have managed to give us an immersive theatre piece one would expect from Off Off Broadway or the depths of Berlin. It is well worth a visit.