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A CurtainUp London London Review
Adler and Gibb

"You'd like that, would you, your most private, pinkest, tenderest - small bird, small bird, small fragile - stolen from you, slammed down onto the slab, the block, poked at and paraded." — Adler and Gibb
Adler and Gibb
Denise Gough as Louise (Photo: Johan Persson)
Plays about artists and poets and musicians often lose something in the translation to the stage. The dramatic piece will often rely on biographical detail rather than showing the artwork itself. Occasionally a play about an artist is very successful, take Peter Shaffer's Amadeus about Mozart or Nicholas Wright's Vincent in Brixton about Van Gogh's early life but for every success I can name a dozen rejects. Many more have related the kind of details that it is uncomfortable to be reminded of, for instance, about the poet WH Auden, Alan Bennett's play The Habit of Art with its seedy scatological information.

And yet there are times when the biographical information adds to our understanding, for instance with Toulouse Lautrec's portrayal of the Parisian demimonde he found himself drawn to when rejected by his family.

Tim Crouch will try for something different as he writes a play around an American artist Janet Adler and her long time collaborator and girlfriend Margaret Gibb. Beneath the stage is a lecture area where student Louise (Rachel Redford) is nervously delivering a presentation about Janet Adler and her art. But with Tim Crouch's plays, nothing is rarely as it seems as he involves his audience in reacting to his unconventional work.

As Louise delivers her lecture, she cuts to slides which are played on the stage above, a stripped back stage, sound desks on view with children colouring drawings on the floor, their delicate psyches protected from the excesses of language by wearing head phones. A boy and a girl will act as stage hands to deliver items to those playing the scene.

Later Sam and Louise visit the house where Adler and Gibb lived and where Adler died and get involved in a narrative that has little to do with the art but more with the lives of two eccentric older women.

Talented actor Denise Gough plays Louise, the student later an actress as she ventures on making a film about Janet Adler with the help and direction of Sam (Brian Ferguson). As this film making progresses we start to feel uncomfortable about the exploitation of the life of artists, and the curiosity about their private life and the relationship between this and the art works.

I think I was too confused by Tim Crouch's piece to fully appreciate his message. This has induced my worst case of writer's block for some months. I hope that by reading this review those who will be stimulated and impressed by ground breaking elements of Adler and Gibb will know who they are but I am afraid I cannot count myself as one of them.

I came away determined to research Janet Adler and Margaret Gibb who I had never heard of in order to try to fathom what they stood for and was directed by Crouch to the site . I am left feeling stupid. A mon avis, ceci n'est pas un drame.

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Adler and Gibb
Written by Tim Crouch
Directed by Tim Crouch with Karl James and Andy Smith

Starring: Denise Gough
With: Amelda Brown, Brian Ferguson, Rachel Redford, Eryk Ajdinovski/ and Sonny Neath, Nico Dietz and Miila Dietz, Lily Mace Horan and George Purves
Designer: Lizzie Clachan
Lighting: Natasha Chivers
Composers and Sound Designers: Ban and Max Ringham
Film: Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor
Running time: Two hours hour 05 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 7565 5000
Booking to 5th July 2014
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 20th June 2014 performance at The Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Royal Court, Sloane Square London SW1W 8AS (Tube: Sloane Square)
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