By Joe Watt, Arts Writer
In 1930s San Francisco, draughtsman A. G. Rizzoli draws a portrait of his mother as a cathedral, part of a wider set of sketches constructing a future society reflected in architecture; Rizzoli calls this city ‘Yield To Total Elation!’
In present-day Bristol, Dreamsick opens with writer/performer Nat Norland making a building by lifting their arms up over their head. A projection judges that Norland’s arms won’t hold for long, they don’t, and so flesh does not become concrete.
Norland’s solo play, assuredly directed by Ben Kulvichit, interrogates Rizzoli’s architectural portraiture. Norland neither lauds nor condemns, instead they marvel at Rizzoli’s ambition whilst lamenting the incompletion of his work. We are told that Rizzoli expected ‘YTTE!’ to begin construction within the following decade, it did not, and so he faded into relative obscurity.
Dreamsick is equal parts sad as it is hopeful. Perhaps the human failure to adhere to our dreams means that we can never adequately transform into architecture. Buildings are far too sturdy and brittle to encompass the incoherence and flimsiness of real, continuous human life.
Norland explores the relationship between past, present and future through lyrical poetry, sound-scaping and physicality. We are asked to imagine a future beyond the confines of the present. Norland tries to escape, to reach ‘beyond the tarmac and paintwork’, but eventually slumps to the side in apparent hopelessness.
Yet the show actually ends on a hopeful note, Norland constructs a city silhouetted in a red-brick sunset, as a rousing chorus of ‘No More Alone’ crescendos behind. It’s an arresting end to an intriguing piece.
Much of Dreamsick is successful; Rizzoli is a fascinating figure to focus on, with an interesting biography that lends itself to a full retelling, but that is not this show, and nor should it have to be.
The space is well-used, the set minimal yet effective: Norland drinks coffee, produces sketches, climbs a ladder, and roams into the audience. It’s well fleshed out but slightly half-baked. It’s funny, but not that funny. It piques my interest in Rizzoli but doesn’t fully explore him as a character. The delivery is confident yet slightly one-note and lacks the fluidity it achieves when Norland is most conversational: in the moments when they address the audience directly. I left struggling to make sense of it.
Perhaps my attention was too human to remain sturdy and, like Norland’s arms, it eventually dropped.
Featured image: Courtesy of Ben Kulvichit | Wardrobe Theatre
What theatre have you enjoyed this term?