Moving, artistic, and abstract, this performance explores duality and trauma effectively through storytelling, animation, and illustration in spite of a few questionable choices.
A fascinating mixed-media performance, Annie George and Flore Gardner combine animation, live illustration, myth, and storytelling to explore dual narratives of abuse, using the story of mythical Greek figure Philomela as a device for delving into a more contemporary, personal-feeling narrative. The two women’s work shines and imparts important messages to its audience; however, a few choices feel more gratuitous than meaningful and detract from the overall artistic effect.
Annie George opens the show with a fourth-wall break, introducing the audience to both herself and Flore Gardner, explaining their relationship in a light-hearted nature, and explaining the design of the show. While George performs, Gardner sits at the back of the stage and adds illustrations in red pen to the frame in which her animations are projected.
George explains that Gardner has chosen to remain silent throughout the performance—an elusive Teller to her chatty, good-natured Penn. She also concedes that it will be nearly impossible for most audience members to see the illustrations as they are created due to their size and distance, but not to worry, this too has symbolic merit. Rather than connecting the performers to their audience, this frame feels unnecessary and detracts from the more abstract storytelling that George will undertake later in the performance, and it furthermore detracts from the sense of whimsical mystery that might have surrounded Gardner’s silent illustration, somehow making its inclusion feel even more confounding.
Gardner’s illustrations (both projected and live) are simple red line drawings, yet somehow sometimes even in their abstraction can evoke the same gruesome detail as a Hieronymous Bosch scene of hell. The projected illustrations are almost hypnotic, and consistently accent George’s narrative and build the stark mood.
The same cannot be said of her live illustrations, the details in which are lost from a seat in the middle of the audience. Her silence, perhaps an additional comment on duality as a comparison with the tortured Philomela whose tongue is removed, feels like a gimmick, in part due to the aforementioned framed introduction. Furthermore, her presence feels one element too many alongside George’s performance and the projected animations and can sometimes serve as a disconnected distraction.
George’s script and performance are impressively strong, emotional, and not without moments of levity among heavy themes. Her delivery ranges from poetic to conversational without losing coherence. The minimal set pieces include stones wrapped with red string, and her movement involving them is interesting to watch and always fitting to the narrative. In the most tragic moments of George’s narrative, her talent as a performer can be truly appreciated and she gives the audience much to consider.
This is a promising, unique, and truly artistic performance from two clearly creative female minds that tells an important story about abuse. George and Gardner are truly two artists to follow.
PHOTOS: Traverse Theatre