Constancy, Sweet Constancy
The entertainment for the night of Saturday the 15th began with a walk down a Digbeth side-road, only vaguely sure of where I was going. The venue for Stan’s Café’s The Cleansing Of Constance Brown was a warehouse on Floodgate Street. They themselves don’t like having to use spaces like this and are desperate to find suitable premises that they can call their own (give ‘em a shout if you have any serious ideas), but I didn’t mind. Bit different, ayit?
Inside, one found walls of big black curtains creating a theatre of sorts in the middle of the warehouse. The back wall of the stage at one end shot back to form a corridor, where everything happened. Everything that happened, of course, was magnificent.
A series of scenes were portrayed in the corridor, each of them showing people exhibiting power over others – from the major (a Jewish family hounded out of their subsequently torched home) to the minor (a man forced to put his cigarette out), and quite often off to one side with the unexpected (the titular Constance Brown – or one thereof, at least – shoots herself in an over-stressed office and forces everyone else into abject panic). It was moving at times and funny at others, always thought-provoking and all acted perfectly: there wasn’t any dialogue as such (people did speak, but they were generally intentionally inaudible over the music), but the body language of the cast was without exception perfectly observed and relayed. The only moments where there was even the slightest hint of uncertainty were when it was entirely deliberate. Some of those moments were damn clever. You probably won’t believe me when I tell you that they elided so smoothly between a drunken office party and an Abu Ghraib scene that you didn’t quite realise when the latter began, but they did.
At the end we were led from our seats, down the corridor and around the outside of it to the exit, enabling us all to see the massive expanse of warehouse behind the curtains and the sheer amount of it taken up by the squintillions (I wasn’t there long but that’s my honest numerical estimation) of costumes used. This was a shock in itself.
Amazing, amazing stuff. I know I recommend a lot of things on here, but this is one I really reeeeally recommend (and for that matter I’m not alone). This run in Birmingham has finished and performances are few and far between, but if it’s ever staged again then make sure you go.