Ovalhouse is a compact, almost neighbourhoody theatre in the Kennington area of London, opposite the famous Oval cricket ground, and for the past 50 years, they have been part of the London theatre fringe, providing development and performance space to experimental, radical and overlooked artists. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few … inventive, let’s say… shows at this location, including one that happened when PCB Theatre critic Gillian Fisher and I walked into the wrong, similarly named, performance and didn’t realize it for ten confusing minutes.
That mistake couldn’t happen with their latest success, Trinity, a collaboration with acclaimed international artists Brave New Worlds. Trinity is a weird and kind of wonderful show, exploring gender roles and female iconography in today’s society’s visual culture. The three players create very beautifully lit moving scenes that involve religious artefacts, historical female rulers, bedroom selfies, a woman made of burnt wood that I’m guessing represented death but was so creepy and cool as she slowwlllly came into the performance space that I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.
I say “space” instead of stage because Ovalhouse and Brave New Worlds found the perfect location for this series of set pieces to occur: an decrepit, crypt-like chapel in south London, now used for theatre and photo shoots. and weddings. As you do. The venue hummed with a loud sound experience that evoked slowed down death metal mixed with a harmonic moaning, and was lit by the remaining natural light coming in through the cracks in the ceilings, accented with incensey smoke. Even with the poor sightlines for the people in the back rows of chairs, I couldn’t imagine this show happening anywhere else. Whether you love a show like this or not, this was unforgettable. Also, and this will sound flippant – it was short. For an artsy, design-heavy dialogue-free night like this, it needed to be. They made their point, beautifully.
One last thing – it’s been really hot in London this week. This city may be trying to look like Dubai architecturally but it hasn’t figured out how to handle a heatwave – and how these three dealt with the costuming – heavy wimples, and head to toe, including full facial coverage, tight thick blue Lycra suits – hats off (and programmes fanned in front of their sweaty little faces) to Valentina Ceschi, Guoda Jaruseviciute and Kate Lane for their work.