Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market

Mon 12th – Sat 17th August 2013

reviews

Millie Morris

at 14:29 on 13th Aug 2013

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What strikes you upon entrance to this production is the finely-crafted costume worn by a ghostly woman onstage. The white material of her dress is torn and dirtied, her hair teased to manic perfection and make-up crazed and sinister. As it transpires, the woman is Jeanie (Iona Campbell): the psychotic spectre of one who fell into the trap of Goblin Market temptation, she leads us on a journey of poetry, plums and the depths of despair. If slightly let down by a few minor aspects, this adaptation of Christina Rossetti’s famed poem is generally as ensnaring as the sweet nectar dripping from the lips of our heroine.

Reaffirming the costume designers’ visual mastery, the goblins are dressed in even more accomplished clothes. Down to the last stitch, it is clear that excessive skill has gone into these exuberant, detailed costumes, which sprout as much colour and texture as something which would be at home in a fashion exhibition. The goblins themselves are chillingly scary, hissing their infamous rhymes - ‘we come, we come’ - at the audience as they prowl around the set and stroke our shoulders. When Laura (Charlotte Wilson) and Lizzie (Bethany Slinn) appear onstage and outline the premise of the play, the story takes a promising path.

What is unexpected and significantly unnerving about this piece is its strong sexual overtones. As Laura is seduced by the heavenly fruit offered by cunning goblin fingers, her consumption is almost orgasmic. Hands and fingers caress her body for no short length of time as she revisits the idea of goblin fruit in a sensuous dream.

This close intimacy is uncomfortable to watch, and it is questionable as to whether this is supposed to lend to the overriding value of the adaptation or a product of the director getting carried away. Even the relationship between the two sisters is fraught with sexual indications: where Laura quenches her thirst for fruit with the juices on Lizzie’s skin, she licks the sticky substance off her sister, and at one point even appears to kiss her full on the lips.

There are some dubious moments within the play which challenge its integrity - when Laura madly raves in lust for the precious fruit, her facial expressions are almost comical, with a tongue spasmodically shooting out to reach the red berries held just out of reach from her lips. Similarly, although the acting standard is generally strong and consistent, the performance could benefit from a little more rehearsal and an overall tightening of delivery.

Despite some mildly weak moments, this play is worth seeing if just for its excellent aesthetic: the plain stage and intricate fabric hanging behind the characters perfectly offset fabulous costumes, in an echo of Rossetti’s lyrically rich, enticing poem.

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Helena Blackstone

at 14:31 on 13th Aug 2013

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The play opens with a woman kneeling on the stage alone, sighing in such a way that we cannot tell whether she is possessed by demons or mid-climax. This is the first hint of what will be a production that provides a physical representation of the highly sexualised undertones of the poem’s language.

As we go down to the brook, sure enough the goblins appear. Their performance is genuinely spine-chilling: I hear a whisper in my ear, feel a lock of matted hair brush past my shoulder, and then an unrecognisable, horned creature is staring right into my eyes with his bright white irises. The goblins are the visual heart of the show, with their amazingly elaborate costumes and face paint. Bryony Holloway, playing leader of the otherwise all-male goblin pack, does not have many lines, but when she does speak she has a haunting voice which manages to truly sound as if it has come from a far-away land.

Laura, played by Charlotte Wilson, transforms before our eyes from a young maiden into a demented, sexualised creature, ravished on stage by the goblins who grope and caress her body, while Dionysian forces take hold of her and she writhes in their arms. The performance does indeed take on the endless frenzy of the original poem, which is powerful but can be a little trying.

Bethany Slinn has chosen to play Lizzie with an extremely childish demeanour, convincingly so with her fidgeting and constant pout. Though her sister comments that she has grown breasts and is beginning to admire men, having her played as quite this young allows for her convincing escape: she has the strength of childish disinterest with which to withstand the sexual temptations of the goblins.

Some of the script is made up of the original lines of the poem, which for me were the chilling highlights, and a respite from what could sometimes become painfully relentless suffering. I suppose that might have be intended, but if you didn’t think you were signing up for an immersive theatre experience, then this can wear a little thin. Overall, these were strong performances and an enchanting realisation of this narrative poem.

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