"There is a calmness to the play that is aided greatly by Fleming's movement which is paced and slow yet filled with frustration, confusion and anger."
The Time of Our Lies
By Bianca Bagatourian
Park Theatre, London | 2019
Hearing that The Time of our Lies is going to be at Park Theatre in July our Editor went into our archive to dust off our original review from its Premiere st Gilded Balloon during Edinburgh Fringe in 2014. He said:
I can remember this show as if it was yesterday. Throughout most of the show, I was sat upright and leaning forward unable to take my eyes of what I was seeing. An utterly stunning and truly unforgettable piece of theatre.
Theatre, the good and the bad, has the power to elicit an instant response from its audience. The live experience of theatre means there is no mute or pause button leaving one to sit there and look on in awe with the actors holding your gaze. But every now and then a piece of theatre comes along that doesn’t just hold your gaze it firmly takes hold of you and doesn't let you go.
This year playwright Bianca Bagatourian and director Josh Chambers premièred ‘The Time of Our Lies’ at Edinburgh Fringe. A biography piece on renowned American historian, author and social activist Howard Zinn is told through movement, song and powerfully delivered monologues. Zinn’s life, choices and regrets are brought out through words and images which are projected onto three whiteboards at the back of the stage.
The opening scene was a combination of Charlotte Di Gregorio hauntingly beautiful voice and Maureen Fleming choreography which has the entire company moving in slow motion. This made you sit up and from the outset, you knew that this was not going to be an easy piece of theatre to sit through. But you knew that because and at Bagatourian's play is firmly placed in history the ride you're taken on is one of truth, clarity and reflection.
“Di Gregorio voice shakes one’s soul, each note is meant to have an effect on the listener and it does.”
As the company slide in and out of the set pieces, each piece a delicate moment of movement and song, one begins to witness the motive and power at the heart of this production. Politicians are perhaps more judged by history and it is through historical examples the audience is exposed to these self-serving politicians who tend to have a universal disregard for the public.
This is illustrated during WW2 when the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki. US command was told that there was a POW camp less than a mile away from ground zero but no change of order was given and ‘The Fat Man’ was dropped. And then there was the destruction of the French seaside town of Royan in 1945, even though the War had been technically by the allies making another bombing raid unnecessary. At times the information one is given by Bagatourian gives you an uneasy, sickly feeling as you don’t want to believe the information you've been given. One holds some ignorant faith that at least some of it will be false.
There is a calmness to the play that is aided greatly by Fleming's movement which is paced and slow yet filled with frustration, confusion and anger. Chambers direction follows both Bagatourian’s text and Fleming’s movement creating the final part of this piece that beautifully connects it all.
The company have no easy task in bringing Zinn’s life to the stage but they have connected to this work with an amazing zeal. The belief and truth that is in every inch of their performances leave one in breathless. The beauty that is created in theatre comes first from its text and then by the performance and there isn’t a moment within this play that one does not feel the burning passion of this company.
Not one performer stands out over another. They, much like the spirit of the play, work together as a group supporting each other and ensuring that there is a net in place for the emotional highs and lows that arise during the hour. Di Gregorio voice shakes one’s soul, each note is meant to have an effect on the listener and it does. And with the brutality of war, of the choices of man and the pangs of regret are brought with unflinching realism by Antonio Anangaran and Jorge Castañeda. Finally, Natasha Corinne and Dana L. Wilson bring both a gentle warmth and powerful clarity of Zinn’s life and experience.
‘The Time of Our Lies’ is a theatre created to showcase the power of history and how a man can change and realise his mistakes. Though this is a touchingly frank and emotionally rich production it still manages to provide inspiration and hope.