Soul Play

Soul Play is an original dance theatre production which tells the intimate contemporary story of a young man’s personal journey, following his mysterious and untimely death. At times bleak, and at others funny and tender, Soul Play draws upon an Eastern European street theatre tradition, in an effortless fusion of text and movement.

 

The Times review April 2, 2010

Soul Play at the Place, London WC1    –    Donald Hutera

The premise of this small, sensitively assembled show is simple but resonant. Confused and distressed, a young man (Sam Curtis) finds himself unaccountably barefoot in an unrecognisable location. How did he get here? And where are his shoes?

Suddenly a mature but mouse-like woman (Joy Constantinides) scurries into the scene, head wrapped in a voluminous scarf and burdened with a chair, carpet, plant and valise. She never speaks, but by her actions — sometimes strange and bordering on malevolent, at other times tender and solicitous — she guides our protagonist, and us, towards a realisation about where he is, and why.

Soul Play was devised and directed by the experienced Kate Flatt. Perhaps best known as the choreographer of Les Misérables, her credits stretch across theatre, opera, film and television. This background is entirely in keeping with the aim here of integrating spoken text and movement. Flatt’s bigger purpose, however, is to get us to consider what happens to the soul after death.

Curtis’s character, it turns out, has died but whether by accident or design remains deliberately unclear. We learn a few other salient points about him from Anna Reynolds’s script, but only enough to pique our curiosity and move the piece along without bogging it down in details. He had a partner, a child and a job that necessitated travelling on a train. We suspect he wasn’t particularly happy.

As for Constantinides, we’re as uncertain about and yet intrigued by her as he is. With her elfin and eccentric expressivity and vaguely Eastern European air, this remarkable performer is the wordless heart of Soul Play. Subtle, delicate, nuanced and precise, she is Curtis’s perfect foil and the embodiment of this 50-minute work’s finest qualities.

Dramatically Soul Play is elusive, but at least it wears its ambiguities lightly while scrupulously avoiding the obvious or sentimental. It’s a shame that, after a short UK tour, there are no plans for it to be restaged. Flatt’s thoughtful, intelligent piece about death merits a longer theatrical life.

Copyright 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.

 

Soul Play – The Place, London – Sanjoy Roy Friday 2 April 2010

It says a lot about Kate Flatt’s Soul Play that the programme includes numbers for counselling helplines. Also that in the Q&A session following each performance, Flatt begins with questions directed to the audience. For Soul Play lives as much in its audience as its performance. And if it speaks to everyone, it touches them differently – because its subject is death.

It opens with a bewildered man (actor Sam Curtis) lost in the dark, talking to himself and flinching at the rattle of passing trains. In wanders a stooped woman (dancer Joy Constantinides), pottering about like a fairytale grandmother. They start up a scrappy sort of dialogue – he speaks, she answers only in movement – that buffets between humour, frustration and anger, until Curtis remembers his story: drunk on a station platform, he had fallen beneath a train. Finally, he realises he is dead.

The rest of the piece plots his journey from death to departure. Constantinides is a kind of spirit guide, illustrating memories: people glimpsed through windows, a child at a door. Curtis takes baby steps as if relearning to walk, cradles Constantinides like the daughter he has left. Twice, he retells his story: he had slipped, but perhaps could have stopped; no, he had killed himself. He, too, falls silent, and we are left with just music, motion and the play of light on Curtis’s fading shadow as he exits.

Soul Play’s staging could be simplified and sharpened, but its real value lies elsewhere. It’s a small, not overtly sentimental piece, but just as Curtis is sometimes caught by a bolt of pain and must cover his face with his hands, its intimations of death sometimes reach out to skewer your heart. Why, when and whether you can face that are questions only you can answer.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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