Reviewed by Chelsea Wright
My viewing of Needles and Opium was one of awe and pure intrigue. The context itself accommodating for comedy and empathy, following the stories of heartbreak and addiction in two noted French artists, Jean Cocteau and Miles Davis, and a working man, Robert. The losses in each of their lives prominent, each attempting to find a different way to cope with the loss of love, and in turn how it affected their successes. The contrast between French and English was beautiful, and the English subtitles above the cube ensured no context was lost throughout performance.
Whilst the context itself was gripping, and I thoroughly enjoyed the excerpts from Jean Cocteau’s literary work, and the beautiful Jazz trumpet throughout, what really captured my attention was the physical interpretation, and the use of the open-cube which was held in the air at a 45-degree angle, continuously rotating, with various sections opening and closing to reveal different settings. The use of harnesses to propel the two actors into the air, to allow them to keep their footing. Also, the lighting surrounding the boxing, from a lightbox table underneath, displaying what was happening atop (drug use), and the ever-changing scenery which was uninterrupted by the actors.
Olivier Normand and Wellesley Robertson III are fantastic throughout, flawlessly connecting the audience with their emotions and handling the changing scenery with such ease. The lack of speech from Robertson is a striking choice from Robert Lepage, in keeping with the original production and the years in which this production is set; 1959-1989, whereby the character was only played by a shadow to display the segregation within society and theatre at that time.
Needles and Opium is a theatrical masterpiece, entwining the simplistic joy of theatre with the complexity of cinematic mastery.
Tickets cost from £12.50 to £24 (booking fees may apply).
Needles and Opium is at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth from 7-8 November 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.theatreroyal.com or call the box office on 01752 267222.
Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, PL1 2TR | 01752 267222