So, BABEL round two…did Char’s Stars keep up the fight?
Talking to people about this show, I’ve repeated myself whilst sticking to my original view of the preview: the volunteers and actors make the show what it is. With the walkway leading into the park riddled with characters such as a cheeky accordion player, a stood up date and vast numbers of mac-clad beret-sporting “grinners”, one immediately recognises the bubbling themes of the piece - the individual vs the collective.
This aura (hippie words are apt in describing this piece) seeps into the open space of the park with tents of “communities” who welcome you with open arms to drink tea, eat Gandhi cupcakes and have massages – and good ones, I add. There’s a great feeling of ease in the space that I can only compare to the experience of wandering into the acoustic tent at a festival once you’ve had a heavy weekend of the “mosh”.
The entertainment stand was where I quickly found myself. The off duty security poet Reese had me laughing and considering his profound views with each tongue flick of a new word. His ‘little story’ was both beautifully written and generously performed. The following act, an incredibly beautiful Indian dancer, had me utterly transfixed and looking around at the rest of the crowd, and the gaping mouths and still eyes assured me that I was not alone in this feeling.
The disturbance of the warm-fuzzy vibes of a bohemian night in the park was aided by the bark of the security guards. I must admit the sound of their voices quickly took me back to school, feeling like supping tea near the clock tower was somehow an act of a naughty child.
The conflict between the passive “sweetie-givers” and the strict “megaphoners” is definitely at the route of the drama to BABEL and I feel it should be stressed that many of the 300 strong cast are volunteers; they don’t have to be that committed and give such a passionate performance if they don’t feel like it. It must be a great compliment to the BAC and Wildworks that they do!
There is however a downside to the staging of BABEL which directly effects this commitment of the cast. The space is very big, and I fear that this double strength concentrate of the volunteers is too diluted by the lack of acoustics and May-time winds. The grandeur of the space is impressive, and realizes very naturalistically the adapted story, but the actors do get lost; as they are at the route of the drama I feel they cannot be compromised but enhanced.
Char’s stars did pull a fair few good punches, wowing and entertaining the huge crowd, but the tower’s steal of the limelight ultimately won and its acting didn’t quite compete. It’s quality, not quantity clock boy!