Constantin Stanislavski, Antonin Artaud, Bertolt Brecht, Jerzy Grotowski and Peter Brook ? Nope me neither and I’m not too hot on my Shakey either so what was I doing after work at Howard Assembly Rooms looking at the Five Truths video / art installation – Getting my head warped that’s what. On entering the cube where the works are displayed you are assaulted by a dizzying array of images and sounds. Wrapped around the walls are 10 video screens of differing sizes and I think density of image. All the screens are showing Ophelia’s mad scene from Hamlet with 2 screens showing an interpretation of the scene for each of Stanislavski, Artaud etc and it took me a while to get my bearings to be honest. Each film runs for around 10 minutes so you can view the different interpretations of the scene however the way that the screens are orientated meant that for me it was simply impossible to just focus on 2 screens as your eyes or ears would be drawn to an adjoining screen which all added to the feelings of disorientation.
The adaptations are all striking similar but different at the same time, so while there is dialogue across them the words are often slightly out of sync and in 1 of the screenings a sort of maudlin folk a la PJ Harvey comes warbling out and while the films all start and end at the same time telling the same story they all move at a different paces.
The same actress wearing the same dress appears in each adaptation and it appears at first glance as though she has been given exactly the same set of objects contained in a clear plastic bag and sat at the same desk. However as you watch the films small subtle differences emerge so the purse is different, one is holding a phone, one a pebble, one a watch, one has a goldfish bowl but not the others so your sense of similarity and symmetry again gets entangled across the screens. The whole thing adds up to a striking visual statement, is it art, theatre, cinema, some strange new pop promo video – all are possibilities. I drifted into this after work not knowing what to expect and 40 odd minutes of dizzying disorientation later I was left musing again on what art is or can be and how we deal with death and unrequited love. Stunning stuff.