Review- The Waste Land- The Shadow Players


By: Justine Denning


To hear that there shall be a dramatic performance of T.S Eliot's The Waste Land is a rarity. The Waste Land has been deemed one of the most influential poems of the 20th century and whilst its influence upon the literary world is unquestionable, it has often been considered too difficult to perform. Its vast array of characters, scenarios and sequences which feature a diverse assortment of languages have scared away many a confident performer. This was not the case for actor Julian Lamb and cellist David Pereira. Together, with the company The Shadow Players, they have not only sought to do what was considered the impossible, but have also introduced a fascinating new musical element to the poem. 


Upon entering the Kwai Tsing Theatre Black Box, I dwelt upon my own opinion of whether a rendition of T.S Eliot poem could be performed successfully, let alone with cello accompaniment. Poetry has its own musical rhythm, pacing, vibrancy and The Waste Land (for those who are not familiar) is particularly haunting. I had no doubt of its suitability for performance in the enclosed atmosphere of a black box theatre. 


It was also challenging to believe that this poem can be tackled as a one man show. Gladly these doubts were disproved by Julian Lamb, who interestingly has a background teaching English and Drama at the Chinese University. As the program will inform you, The Waste Land was written by a man in the aftermath of WWI who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His poem retains the haunting image of a spiritually barren land with a message 'can a world so broken ever be redeemed?'.


From Julian's performance, I watched the characters become broken and defeated; his physical characterizations and elicit body language were suggestive of time and transitions and his control of this performance was notable. I highly recommend this to any drama student curious to the concept of 'spoken word' for Julian Lamb's strong control of voice is highly commended.


As for the cello accompaniment by David Pereira, it worked; that is to say, it enhanced the fragmented nature of Eliot's poem. It was noticeable when it needed to be and it was suggestive of tone for the moments that can be difficult to follow (such as Eliot's use of different languages). In this production, music was the audience's ally and it certainly contributed understanding to the tone of the selected sequences. Perhaps a moment I would query is opening with the pre-show music to the first note of the cello; the transition was a little jarring. This is an easy fix that can be altered in future renditions of the play.


The lighting was also well used for the performance. There was a neat white light that cast effective shadows and highlighted the sorrow and loneliness that T.S Eliot's poem evokes. One moment, however, should be monitored and that was their use of the blue light towards the middle of the act. I noticed that it hit fellow audience members in the eye and caused them to have to block the light with a program. Perhaps the positioning of the light could be a tad more audience friendly.


The Waste Land is playing through September 27th. For more information, click here.

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Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 3.5


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