Forced Entertainment’s play The Notebook has nothing to do with the Ryan Gosling film of the same name. Nicholas Sparks’ sappy love story is miles removed from the gritty, austere performance staged by this avant-garde British theatre company.
The Notebook is an adaption of the highly acclaimed novel The Notebook by the Hungarian writer Ágota Kristóf. In the book we get closely acquainted with two brothers, twins, evacuated to the Hungarian countryside during World War II. Their mother sends them to stay with their eccentric grandmother on her impoverished farm. The boys however are not your average youngsters; they refuse to be governed by any adult and weave their own impressive story.
In this version, directed by Tim Etchells, the narrative is firmly in the hands of the two boys. On a bare stage they read from their respective notebooks, a set up with two adult performers who stand side by side, dressed in the same suits, reading as if with one voice and telling their story from one double perspective. The scene is literally set by the words only. The story they tell is arranged in short passages, essays on their life in the little village which the boys wrote down in the notebooks. Their tales are straightforward and go from quirky to shocking in this two hour play.
The boys, embodied by Robin Arthur and Richard Lowdon, are not so innocent as they may look. The hair raising performance of Arthur and Lowdon only emphasizes their strange tale. During this chilling account of time spent on the isolated farm, the perspectives of their enthralled audience change. War is bad, those who get swept away in it are tragically cursed. But does this hold true? After The Notebook (which unfortunately is a good 15 minutes too long) our visions of good and bad have been severely bruised.
Seen 25 October 2014 at Kaaitheater
Forced entertainment is playing around Europe