Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Thu 13 Dec
Clarissa! is an impressive piece of mixed theatre, using everything the modern theatre has to offer with regards to movement, voice, lighting, multimedia and film. On the surface, Clarissa! is a chronicling of the life, times, rise and fall of a showbiz legend through the twentieth century, but behind the curtain, it’s much more than that.
Performed by the Angharad Berrow, this one-woman show depicts Clarissa changing from an old, angry woman reminiscing about her past to the sparkling, young, ambitious, attention-adoring star; all the while it retains a steady undercurrent of awareness about the exploitation, youth-monopolising tendencies of the industry. Berrow’s ability to maintain an energy onstage, often when doing very little other than just speaking, is very impressive; she uses space very effectively.
BAFTA-CYMRU nominated film-maker, Christian Britten, has made visual interpretations to play concurrent to the performance [pictured above]. The blending of cinematography and theatre is a useful and successfully achieved technique that illustrates the story’s relation to not only the film industry, but also the ever-expanding nature of it. There were times when I was unsure whether this feature was being used to its full potential – where it felt more like a backdrop than a symbiosis of styles. However, most times, the two were hand-in-hand in making the experience interesting and effective.
The script, written by Terry Victor, is authentic without losing the drama of Clarissa’s personality, darling. There is something remarkable to be said for a script that’s able to present a reasonably comprehensive scope of history, the personality of an eccentric star, the experiences of love and relationships, in the form of what plays like a casual conversation between friends.
The themes and plot points are linked in an entirely fresh and creative way to Picasso’s Guernica, depicting grotesque, gory images of death, chaos and destruction. Clarissa! is about love, passion, grief, the futility of war, and the cruelty with which it can take from those who seemingly have too much to want.
words Megan Thomas