Dance: Incognito: Physical Theater from London
All Quiet On The Western Front
By Dawn Lille
ART TIMES November 2016
‘Midst the plethora of performance events to be seen and heard in NYC, occasionally, for no valid reason, one seems to say “come.”
Thus I found myself at the Soho Playhouse in October at All Quiet On The Western Front, a work straight from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, part of the NYC + Edinburgh Festival 2016. This play, based on the Erich Maria Remarque novel that revolves around the inhuman strains of trench warfare, marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme as well.
The five men of the English group Incognito work in what they term “physical theater.” The result in this production was a troupe that appeared to breathe together in a manner that seemed to combine every syllable with a movement of the body, drawing both the eyes and the ears to the stage. This produced a kind of poetic dance expressing the senseless horrors of World War I from the viewpoint of young German soldiers.
The Remarque novel, part of the early education of many of today’s older generation, was the draw because of a curiosity as to how it could be adapted in a manner that would render it relevant to contemporary theater. The young actors in this ensemble succeeded in recreating the paralyzing and passionate fear, as well as the humanity, that resulted from the stupidity of the trench warfare on the Western Front. Watching it, one had to think of Syria, Iraq and Vietnam.
Entering the small theater the audience saw an arranged quintet staring at and through them from the curtainless stage. A few low risers defined the set and a subtle sound design gave validity to the spoken words of these young soldiers. The adaptation of the book was a collaboration by the cast, led by one of them, Charlie MacVicar. It was simple, but it clearly defined characters and emotions.
The movement director, Zac Nemorin, is a trained dancer and choreographer who teaches the Matt Mattox jazz technique in England. His work here was a logical accompaniment to the text and did not stand out as choreography – to his credit. In a later conversation he expressed his admiration for the cast, who were able to absorb any suggestion he made, creating smooth movement sequences that went naturally with their spoken lines.
Incognito is comprised of five young men who met in a drama class at an all boys school, Dulwich College, London, where they still rehearse. They decided to continue working together as they embarked upon full time studies at different drama schools, creating shows, usually adaptations of classical texts, during the summer holidays. This is the third one they have taken to Edinburgh. They are supported by the Pleasance theatre, particularly the Young Pleasance Company, which they were part of during their teenage years.
The director, Roberta Zuric, for whom this is a first time collaboration, initially met them at Pleasance. She says that when they all finish their training they will continue to expand Incognito. Meanwhile, a moving thanks to Angus Doughty, Edward Elliot, George John, Charlie MacVicar and Alex Maxwell.