Tripartite is the newest show from Slip Theatre which played for the first-time last night (25th November) at stage@leeds.
I have been lucky enough to see a few plays at this venue, those seen previously following that of more traditional character driven plots and utilising their space to great effect for their respective productions. ‘Tripartite’ departs from this opting instead for an allegorical, metaphor-heavy style, seating itself firmly within experimental theatre, a medium unique in its allowance for unbounded suspensions of disbelief, a place where scene changes and world shifts can transform with nothing but the change of a light, or the alteration of sound. ‘Tripartite’ is aware of this and it is evident through the effective and innovative use of staging and effects. Upon entering I double take, barely recognising the space. The usually intimate, closed in theatre seemingly doubled in size. A vast projection screen and towering blank white boards are arranged in the centre. As the lights dim, voices play over the speakers, providing the first insights into the content of the show. The boards break away revealing the cast members within, who dissipate and spread taking their places and composing the opening scene.
The show narrativizes and builds upon Sigmund Freuds concept of the psyche, as one separated into three identifiable sections, their combinations forming the basis of every individual’s unique character. We explore this through the disintegration of a family as they navigate the emotional fallout from a now absent abusive father and husband. Each member gets an exploration of their psyche, guided and introduced to us by three musical scientists.
The production really shines in the dream sequences which are a particular strength of the show. Every element of production combines to create truly immersive and emotional scenes. The performers act as perfect protagonists, colliding with the unpredictable events whilst navigating the unforgiving space. There’s great use of physical metaphor, highlighted and built upon with professional looking animation and cleverly-choregraphed group sequences. The shows format veers from flashback to dream sequence, songs to dance numbers. It’s a bold production, determined to dazzle and make the most of the space and the possibilities of theatre. However, at times, the variety of elements compete for attention. The projections and dance numbers individually impress, but there’s so much it sometimes struggles to undulate its tone.
That said the visual spectacle is still one of the shows core strengths. The staging and innovative scene changes elevate the play by creating an atmosphere of expanse that perfectly captures the ‘void’ feeling required for a play which locates much of its action in a subconscious space. The show also features some very strong acting. Rachel Cannon as the daughters alter ego wonderfully characterises the internalised anger and frustrations felt by her comparatively measured counterpart played by Tateyana Arutura. Whilst Sarah Lynn and Meg Ferguson complement each other beautifully as both versions of the mother. Sarah Lynn brings an authentic distress in portraying the unravelling of the mothers inner mind whilst Meg Ferguson brings balance and a well-considered interpretation of one performing and operating within the confines of societies expectations.
Overall, “Tripartite’ is an immersive and engaging hour and a half ride. The play unfolds and develops like a dream and there has been clear care and thought put into every aspect. This is a production full of artistic choice and it’s a delight to see such risks being taken in student theatre. Every element of production has its standout moments and what results is a show which is satisfies the senses whilst providing a wonderful showcase for the clear talents of its cast and crew.
Tripartite is playing tonight (26/11/2021) and tomorrow, (26/11/2021) at the stage@leeds theatre. Tickets available via this link
Review by: Nadia Ribot-Smith