Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: L’Autre, Southbank Centre

Review: L’Autre, Southbank Centre

Published on Culture Wars, 26.01.2012

For all its stylish serenity, L’Autre has all the substance of a mirage in the desert. It’s the sort of non-verbal piece that soaks up any interpretation we so chose to project and, while it wears its hazy existentialism lightly, Claudio Stellato’s solo-for-two is ultimately forgettable.

On a red carpet, which seems to scrunch up of its own accord, are two wooden blocks. One is a tall, thin cupboard; the other, a short, squat television stand. Stellato variously climbs over, under and inside each. Here he seems a hermit crab, there a trapdoor spider, and elsewhere an escapologist unconcerned by spectacle.

L’Autre is an advocation of play. Stellato defies the accepted order of things, the one that says square pegs belong in square holes. He encourages us to see with fresh – often quite disbelieving – eyes. At several points, gravity seems to stand back and gift Stellato the floor. He walks a plank that oughtn’t support his weight, until, in a hauntingly tranquil final image, he dissolves into darkness.

The question is, “To what end?” The possibilities of L’Autre are, exactly as the title suggests, simply other. They have no meaning except in relation to the usual state of play. For all it’s quietly mischievous beauty, L’Autre is rarely seems more than a demonstration of Stellato’s imagination and stage trickery infused with the aroma of vague philosophy.

Not one for the faux-naif goofing that wins its laughs by protesting it doesn’t deserve any, Stellato is a stoical, almost sage-like clown. His play is calm and considered, not haphazard tomfoolery and happy accidents. His every move seems to follow logically from the last, even if, ultimately, they are all equally pointless. Or rather, as Stellato would no doubt argue, who’s to say life is any less pointless than L’Autre.

Photograph: Martin Firket

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