Short Sighted


STELLA HALL on Short Sighted at the Cockpit Theatre London



Optik have already toured two shows, One Spectacle and Second Spectacle. Short Sighted was the first production I’d seen, and I certainly felt as though I’d been missing out on something, they’re the sort of company you fell you’d like to know from the start.

There are images of extreme beauty and of sheer lunacy and sometimes they are the same. An eclectic assortment of instruments and Marjie Underwood’s electric singing combine to create a whole other dimension to the spectacle, and musician Clive Bell can never be accused of going for the obvious or the merely commentary. The musician as performer in his/her own right means that the music doesn’t simply become a theatrical backing track.

Short Sighted takes as its inspiration Jean Luc Godard’s ‘Breathless’ and ‘The Barber of Seville’, marrying them together in an extraordinarily seamless performance piece, creating a timeless continuum in which the three individuals, Count Lindor, Figaro and Rosina constantly meet and depart, in locations from Renaissance Spain to a colonial outpost in South America.

The piece opens determinedly in the present. Heather Ackroyd in black plastic mac frenziedly attempts to break out of the mould, dancing a kind of T’ai Chi ballet as though her life depends on it. A boy in a red jersey joins her and is gone. Pan pipes play and a woman sings

‘When lemons taste like honey dew, I’ll stop loving you.’

Before there’s even time to register, time shifts and a becloaked figure with a lamp is serenading an unseen love. In the distance the woman sings:

‘Don’t play a sentimental melody

They leave me breathless

They leave me breathless.’

The moments build layer on layer, each meeting oddly out of joint, as though two jigsaws had been shattered, then lovingly reassembled to form one. The count is advised by Figaro to disguise himself as a soldier in order to gain admittance to his loved one, he reappears as a soldier, but in modern dress. Rosina, as she flutters and flirts with the Barber, cannot see him with his sandwiches and thermos.

The action shifts, the elusive Rosina is found again on the other side of the world, a white-suited traveller finds her in some dusty shanty town where she dances a wild, shrieking display, a cigar clamped firmly between her teeth. A long slim flute is played, drums sound and, as she whirls, it seems the time is suspended.

Optik excel at such moments, where the visual and the aural experiences meld and boundaries divide.