Following critical success at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, Theatre Témoin are now in the middle of a short run of The Marked at London’s Ovalhouse. Jack is learning to cope with his homeless state, hiding from the demons of his past – and isn’t helped by his chance meeting with couple, Sophie & Pete. Through a combination of puppetry & physical theatre, The Marked explores Jack’s back story & his daily struggles.
Since his alcoholic mother’s death, Jack has been living on the streets of London. He has become reliant on a ‘weapon’ from his childhood to keep himself safe from the demons lurking round the corner: a torch. When he meets Sophie he decides she needs it more than he does, as her partner is quite aggressive towards her, so he gives it away; things start to look up, until Jack finds out that Sophie has the same problem his mother had. He goes off the rails, letting his demons in & attacking Pete. This is the wake-up call he needed, allowing him to finally see that the ‘demons’ following him each day are just regular people going about their own lives. Jack is still on the streets, but has become stronger.
There is dialogue running through the hour-long show, however the puppetry & physical aspects are where it truly shines. Using a large puppet to portray Jack as a young boy, and putting masks on other members of the company immediately lets the audience know that this is a flashback – and Jack’s background becomes clear quite quickly. In his current life, Jack gains an occasional companion in the form of a pigeon; this incredible mechanical puppet (designed by Peter Morton) looks & acts just like the real pigeons we all come into contact with, and you barely notice that it’s being operated by a person on the other end of a stick. The only part I am not so convinced about is putting masks on people who then become talking pigeons when Jack hits his lowest point… Whilst the comic relief is quite welcome by then, for me it makes the show stray too far from the bounds of reality and verges on the ridiculous.
The set (Zahra Mansouri) is absolutely astounding. Not only does it look completely authentic as a back street in London, but its versatility & practicality takes it to another level. There are so many places that allow for unexpected entrances & swift exits – this means the piece can flow smoothly, with no need for lengthy scene transitions, and maintains a pace that keeps the audience hooked.
The combination of lighting (Pablo Fernandez Baz) & sound (Filipe Gomes) adds another intriguing layer to this piece. The use of strobing is effective and contained to moments of absolute necessity, plus the final symbolic lighting of Jack’s torch is a memorable way to end the show. Some wonderful sound effects are employed, the most striking of these being the breaking glass in some flashback moments.
Bradley Thompson gives a moving lead performance as Jack. His absolute conviction in the magic of his torch is hugely affecting, as is his anguish at the approach of his demons. Thompson’s clear commitment to the piece is admirable, adding an extra sense of believability to the story.
As levels of homelessness continue to rise, it is imperative that shows such as The Marked cast a light on people’s plight in the hope that they might make a difference.
My verdict? A show which has the look & feel of authenticity, bringing to light what a life on the streets can be like – a theatrical experience that stands alone.
The Marked runs at Ovalhouse until 22 October 2016. Tickets are available online and from the box office.