THEATRE REVIEW: The Notebook ★★★★
Tuesday 8th March 2016
Warwick Arts Centre
Based on Ágota Kristóf’s novel set during WWII, Forced Entertainment's latest production is that of The Notebook, which follows two boys and their adventures at their grandmother's house, to which they have been evacuated to as a way to escape the conflict, and features the themes of love, power, violence and sexual references.
Now forced entertainment have been a company to which I have wanted to look into for a while now, as they have been described as a company you would either love or hate, because the pieces they produce as so outlandish, from performances that could feature all 6 company members, who originate in Sheffield, and put on big productions, or have a two-hander production, to which The Notebook exactly had just this.
Richard Lowdon and Robin Arthur were the performers for this production, and as they both took to the stage, which had 20 wooden floorboards pieced together on the ground and two chairs, one either top corner of these floorboards, they came to the centre with their notebooks and started reading. Now this could be where the ‘marmite' reputation may have come from, because do you really want to see two male actors just read on stage for a whole 130 minutes, and would you more importantly call this theatre?
Well to answer both this questions in short, The Notebook was possibly one of the most gripping and intense productions I have seen, because the way they spoke throughout the whole production, though it is hard to explain, felt engaging. They spoke in unison when expected to, and the innocence of their voices when talking as the two young boys were realistic and made you feel a part of the story.
When you hear that the performance will contain sexual references, for a show like this you may think that it wouldn't phase you as they are just reading from a book, but I found myself strangely wanting to cover my ears throughout these segments, because they became very graphic quite quickly, and I believe that this effect only came about by the sheer brilliance of pace and timing from the two performers, and this must also be a testimony to Tim Etchells brilliant directing of the piece.
Overall, The Notebook was unlike any piece of theatre I have witnessed before, that kept me utterly gripped throughout, and just proves that a simple concept like this having, having just two actors reading out to their audience, could have such a strong effect myself.