Sunday, April 3, 2011

Everytime I See Your Picture I Cry

8.30pm Friday 1st April
Peacock Theatre
10 Days on the Island
It's called a 'manual animation', and as soon as Daniel Barrow's Everytime I See Your Picture I Cry begins, you can understand why. Using an old-fashioned overhead projector, Barrow animates his narrative by manipulating a series of two or three layers of hand-drawn screens. Visually, it's both touching and spellbinding. The precision and depth of creativity is constantly surprising as we are treated to his comic-style characters acting on the screen. Effects, symbolic elements and small visual jokes are spread throughout the story, leaving us now laughing, now sad and whimsical.

The show is accompanied by a well-conceived soundtrack by Amy Linton and Barrow's own live narration. Centring on 'Helen Keller', a disenchanted, reality-tumbled artist turned garbage collector, it poses as the story of his attempts to collect a world together in a personal phone book, an imaginative construction built from the figures he spies through windows on his rounds. However, even as he enters his characters in the book, a serial killer is stalking and murdering the people he has been describing.

I say poses, for the narrative elements are spare and you get the sense that Barrow is barely attempting to tell a story in the classical sense. Rather, Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry functions as a series of confessional reflections on our responses to suffering and isolation. The Helen Keller nickname is a fairly straightforward clue; for the garbage collector, the original Keller serves as a seemingly impossible ideal. So often, the real world scars us more terribly, leaving us broken and disappointed individuals; we may even, perhaps, be stalked by a serial killer.

While he has a fine, hypnotic vocal style, at times Barrow's almost poetic prioritisation of reflection over narrative becomes a little ambling. It's a delicate balance, and one that should not be judged too harshly. For the mood is consistent, the sensibility clear and pronounced.

And Barrow's visual manipulations are wonderful enough to transcend any of our questions and our doubts.

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