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Towards a new aesthetic of theatre:


Physical theatre is not new. Steven Berkoff has been its chief exponent for some forty years. We have also seen narrative combined with circus skills, and very successfully, from a number of groups over the years.


Voice Box Theatre, however, is at the threshold of something different, and quite new. They have been working for a few years now, largely in shorter pieces, but now with a full-length piece called Grendel. This is a retelling of the Beowulf myth from the point of view of the monster. It derives in part from the 1971 novel of the same name by John Gardner, but is quite different in interpretation. Here, the theme of demonization of the Other is told in acrobatic movements that are meaningful in themselves, and move the narrative forward. This is seen for instance, clearly and movingly, in the Pietà sequence, but it informs the entire piece. Just as Kathakali dance or Japanese Noh drama have their conventions, so Voice Box Theatre is evolving a style that has its own conventions. However, these are not overly rigid. Instead, they give a new freedom and set of dramatic possibilities to the performers, and to theatre in general.


The acrobatics twist and bend the performers into sometimes sculptural, sometimes mechanical forms, but each time such forms resolve into the human as part of the aesthetic, not simply as the end of a tumbling trick. It is vital to understand this as integral to the meaning of this form of theatre: the form is the content, and the content is the form. Grendel illustrates a central concern of our time: the creation of monsters from those we fear, but the informing idea is ultimately hopeful; the emergence from the various attitudes that we force ourselves into from fear, doubt, loathing and despair into the truly human.


Peter Snow

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