Hands Tell a Love Story in this Convergence of Theatre and Film
A review of Kiss & Cry by Elena Maria Piech
Over one-thousand people gather together in the Barbican Theatre to watch a set of hands fall in love – audiences have the option of watching the small set of hands or of watching a screen that’s live streaming the entire spectacle. Part of the London International Mime Festival, Kiss & Cry is the latest work by choreographers Michèle Anne de Mey and Grègory Grosjean. The show tells the love story of Gisele, a girl who briefly touched hands and fell in love with a boy she met on the train. Since the story forms around the touching of hands, various sets of hands become the main actors in this piece. While the hands act, a cameraman films the characters and projects their story onto a massive screen in real-time. Although Kiss & Cry lacks deep character development, it must be regarded as a show that breaks theatrical boundaries through the use of new technology. Theatre is an ever evolving art form that has made countless changes throughout its lengthy history of existence. Kiss & Cry is a show that makes one of these changes.
Kiss & Cry should be marked as a show to remember due to its innovative use of theatre and film. So much work went into the details of telling Gisele’s experiences with love and loss: using two sets of blinking flashlights to emulate the lights on a train; filling a small room up with water to make it appear as if a hand drowns in a bath tub; and having two hands move smoothly together like circus acrobats. The producers of Kiss & Cry understand what details work to form an entrancing show. Not only do these details transfer well when watching the actors, but these elements also look beautiful on the screen. From understanding what their camera will pick up in different lighting compositions, to knowing when to and when not to use steady cam, this is an interesting detail-oriented show as much as it is a beautiful piece of filmmaking. The most memorable thing about this entire experience is that audience has the ability to watch both what is on screen and what is being filmed. As Lyndsey Winship brilliantly points out in The Evening Standard, “Even though we can see the mechanic of what’s happening right in front of us, what’s on screen feels more real … it’s a piece about filmmaking as much as anything”.
Although the shows plot might seem slightly simplistic, the directors, designers, and producers compensate by setting up unique camera shots and by creating a stage that’s captivating for audience goers. The work is easy to watch, understand, and feel. Perhaps it might best resonate with those who have had a love that got away. Despite the easy empathy that can form with viewers who have experienced love and heartbreak, the show does have one a problem: a lack of character development. While this might not be an issue the average theatre-goer would notice, constant theatre consumers might pick up on it.
Some reviews such as Judith Mackrell in The Guardian are harsh on the production’s plot. As Mackrells negatively writes, the story’s narration is a “confusing mess of clunky metaphor and awkward jokes”. Mackrells tough comments neglect to consider how monumental this production is with the concepts and ideas it carried out. After all, early films might be critiqued in modern times due to their plot holes, but that doesn’t delegitimize the piece of media. The 1925 film The Battleship Potemkim, which tells the story of a massacre of a group of civilians, is marked by it’s pioneering use of editing techniques and it introduced the concept of montage editing. Now if one were to watch the film today, they would notice how the editing is not as slick as modern editing, but they can still understand its relevancy and why it became monumental to the development of future films. The setup and production of Kiss & Cry will forever be marked as a show that inspires other playwrights and producers to delve deeper into emerging field of live drama and film.
The convergence of these two fields creates a sensual, elegant, and collaborative show. Some like Lyn Gardner in The Guardian claim “Technology has become the show, rather than being in service of the show”; however, Gardner’s ideology seems to be stuck in the past. Kiss & Cry perfectly converges technology and theatre into a truly mesmerizing experience. One example of this can be noted near the end of the show when Gisele observes her two neighbors dancing together. On screen, it it looks as if a master puppeteer is intricately moving together two miniature figures, but on the stage one can notice how the two figures dancing are actually the silhouettes of two actors. This show has as much strength in its choreography as it does with its technical setup. These two actors moved in perfect unison with one another and through the use of angles and spacing, the camera created an optical illusion to make it look as if two people were miniature figures. Much like the rest of the show, this entire scene focuses on how the use of small details could enhance the world on the screen and on the stage.
The use of details and planning is what makes Kiss & Cry memorable. Sure, the love story might lack strong character development, but it makes up for it by telling a simple story in a way that has never been told. Kiss & Cry is a small story of love and loss, made mesmerizing through the live use of a big screen.
Snapchat Filters available at the Barbican Theatre
The three Snapchat filters available for download at this theatre were the London Mailbox, the London Skyline, and the Purple City.
(1) London Mailbox – Attendees might be surprised to know that behind the Barbican is a residential area. These residents probably use this exact type of mailbox.
(2) London Skyline – If an attendee squints and stands on top of a tall structure, they might be able to catch a glimpse of the skyline while at the venue.
(3) Purple City – This image perfectly captures the environment surrounding the Barbican. Guests will exit the building and find themselves surrounded by a sea of buildings.