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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Friday, September 03, 2010

The Man Who Fed Butterflies theatre review

Published in The Guardian

The Man Who Fed Butterflies

King's, Edinburgh
3 out of 5

A film director and his producer are having a row about casting. He wants to use the two seasoned pros he remembers from the theatre; she would prefer a couple of young film actors. The director has his way, and the two old-timers get the parts – as well as a speedy lesson in blue-screen technology.

This is the kind of meta-theatrical joke you can imagine Robert Lepage making. A companion piece to Sin Sangre, reviewed yesterday, The Man Who Fed Butterflies shows off the astonishing technique developed by Chile's Teatro Cinema, whereby live actors inhabit a filmic landscape. Here in the theatre, we see a play that is more like a film, in which two stage actors make a film that is somehow still in the theatre. "I prefer theatre," says one of the actors, compounding our disorientation.

Though brilliantly done, Juan Carlos Zagal's production is more of a cinematic experience than a theatrical one, and it is debatable what the live actors add. Yes, we are impressed to find them always in the right place between the closeups and long shots, but as performers they can offer us neither the intimacy of the stage nor the control of the big screen.

But it is more than a gimmick. Zagal, who lived through the Pinochet regime, creates a comic-book fable in which a series of characters seek light in the darkness. Using film enables him to visualise the "infinite persistence of life", whether in a circling swarm of butterflies that save a man from suicide, an epic knight-in-shining-armour fantasy, or the flashbacks of a woman left in a coma after being shot by the security services. These stories of hope defeating despair, of imagination overcoming painful reality, find a natural home in such a visually arresting technique.

© Mark Fisher 2010

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