Saturday, August 5, 2017

Edinburgh Fringe: 'Changelings' at theSpace on North Bridge, 4th August 2017

Changelings reviewed by David James

Rating: 1 Star

Changelings answers the question on everyone's lips: what would happen if Mowgli from The Jungle Book and the mythological Puck hung out together? The answer is... not much. I'm generally all over "twistingly post-modern" shows that take an experimental approach to classic literature, not to mention smart takes on classical and folk mythology. But Pucqui Collective's Changelings is one of those shows that left me wondering how it ever got out of the idea stage.

We open with Kipling's Mowgli (Nicole Marie Palomba) exploring the jungle. He's just been kicked out of the wolf pack for playing with fire and is pondering a return to his long lost mother. Enter the playfully diabolical Puck (Robin Ian HallSmith), who grants Mowgli the gift of English and engages him in a discussion about magic, the boundaries of reality, his own fictional nature and whether they might be able to dream a better tale together.

This all feels extremely Neil Gaiman inspired (Puck even paraphrases the famous Sandman quote: "[That's] the real problem with stories - if you keep them going long enough, they always end in death.”) But while Gaiman can seamlessly blend ancient gods with pop culture, Changelings comes up short.

A lot of this is down to the seriously unfocused and repetitive script. For example, we spend a ludicrous amount of time watching Mowgli and Puck argue over whether wolves can lie or not, the dialogue occasionally feeling as if it's looping in on itself into infinity. Then there's the extremely muddled narrative excuse for their meeting (Oberon wants a young Indian boy... for some reason) and their fuzzily defined desire to join up together and form a family. Given how quickly the show runs out of steam (even at just 50 minutes long) it's tempting to conclude that the core concept of Mowgli and Puck meeting simply isn't dramatically fertile ground.

Having said all that, I've got to hand it to Nicole Marie Palomba, whose take on Mowgli is as committed as it is silly. Clad in a Raquel Welch-a-like fur two piece and wearing generic tribal makeup, she tosses an entertaining amount of growls and snarls into her dialogue, scurries around in a 2001-ape-a-like squat while curiously craning her neck up at the alien intruder in her world. It's a pretty undignified role in an extremely camp costume, but she comes at it with gritted teeth professionalism and almost makes it work.

Sadly, whatever quality Palomba provides is undermined by HallSmith, whose Puck is just an unbearable smuggo. Puck is a rich, complex character with a millennia of mythology behind him, but in Changelings he feels less like a fictiongod voyaging through the imaginative multiverse and more likea dude who's disappeared up his own arse.

Compounding all this is some uninspired staging. I'll grant that finding a performance space in the middle of the busiest cultural event in the world is tricky at the best of times - not every show can occupy some scenic theatre. But Changelings is staged within a conference room at the Edinburgh Hilton, the jungle evoked by a couple of camouflage mats draped across the stage. When Puck asks Mowgli to stare at the stars he gestures up in wonder at the expanded polystyrene ceiling tiles, which somehow fails to capture the majesty of the cosmos.

I really wanted to like Changelings, on paper this kind of thing is very much my shit. But, setting aside the staging, performances and script, I just don't think the core idea is much cop. It leaves a show that simply doesn't have anything to say, resorting to chucking portentous sounding metafictional gobbledegook at the wall in the hope something might stick. Nothing does.

Changelings is at theSpace North Bridge, Edinburgh until August 26th. Details here.

Tags: , , , , ,

0 Responses to “Edinburgh Fringe: 'Changelings' at theSpace on North Bridge, 4th August 2017”

Post a Comment

© All articles copyright LONDON CITY NIGHTS.
Designed by SpicyTricks, modified by LondonCityNights