Review: Curtain’d Sleep, Entita @ Basic Space ****

For the next week, two safe houses in Peckham will play host to a number of shows, as part of a new theatre festival: Basic Space. It’s less about transforming the space physically but figuratively, as they are all site sensitive theatre, ‘shows which are not necessarily specific to the space, but are sensitive to their surroundings…[and which] respond to the space’.

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Last night, I was lucky enough to see Curtain’d Sleep as the first show inhabiting this space. Taking the off stage deaths of some of Shakespeare’s best known female protagonists, Entita brings them on stage. As the actors remind us, ‘All the world’s a stage ‘ and indeed the house itself becomes a stage, echoing and reverberating with life in death, so powerful is Jamie Woods and Katharine Hardman’s vision.

On arrival, audiences are encouraged to explore the space, moving from room to room with the story. There is little set dressing in this production, giving it a haunting quality, a shell almost. It’s almost as if the characters are stuck in a limbo, repeating their deaths and us with them. Rather than feeling isolated by the atmosphere, it’s oddly intimate: the Lady Macbeths’ feast scene invites guests to sit which you can’t help but do, becoming a part of the story. Perhaps most intimate is the final scene which brings everything and everyone together: actors, audience and a number of Shakespeare’s female characters.

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The cast of Curtain’d Sleep. Photographer: Peter Le May

The space works perfectly with this production: four rooms for four distinct facets of characters, with holes which allow us and them to see and acknowledge the other scenes going on. It reminded me of Grimm Tales at the Oxo Tower last year, but with more freedom in how you interact with the space, for which Woods and Hardman should be commended. The audience follows the story across the two floors, guided by the story and their own intuition, with music and other technological touches providing a modern twist.

Movement plays a vital role in this production and is characteristic of Entita, who explore Shakespeare in Motion. Going in to it, I expected a literal translation of bringing the deaths onstage. Instead we are presented with the deaths, but told through movement and dance. It makes for a powerful, moving sight and reinterpretation of Shakespeare. Jenny Geertsen and Francisca Stangel both play Lady Macbeth in this production and their respective versions of the ‘sleepwalking’ scene were terrifying; the way they contorted their bodies and facial expressions was entrancing. Hardman and Jessie Knowles double as Ophelia and their interpretation of the drowning scene was so moving: one panicked, one peaceful, the sheer and distinct emotion they each conveyed in their movement was entrancing.

Verdict: Entita perfectly demonstrates the magic of movement, space and storytelling working together, in a haunting and beautiful reworking of Shakespeare.

Curtain’d Sleep will be playing until Sunday 21st February 2016 at the Basic Space Festival in Peckham. For more information about the production and to book tickets, visit the Basic Space website, and for more information about Entita, visit their website or follow them on Twitter.

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