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Celebration of L’œuf

by on 1 April 2021

One Boast Too Much

Celebration of L’œuf

Duck’s Egg Theatre Company at Nonsuch, Morden until 1st April

Review by Avril Sunisa

“April is the cruellest month”, said T.S. Eliot.  Why?  Because, inter alia, it is busy “mixing memory and desire”.  How much cruller this year, then, as we hold out hope of coming out of lockdown and mixing the memory and desire of creating within the performing arts.  Yet our theatres and concert halls remain closed pro tem: there but not quite.

Nonsuch Palace Park sans Palace

It was however, with this sense of hope that I went in sparse glory to represent the critical press at the Duck’s Egg Theatre Company’s celebration of what the performing arts had achieved in the last year; that is up until the end of March.  To maintain the fresh spontaneity of the piece, it was presented in the morning of the first day proxima.  Its concision was such that it concluded just before noon.   Hence I found myself, socially distanced at Nonsuch Park in Morden, the erstwhile deer park of Nonesuch Palace … which is not there anymore.   Our appreciative group was slightly more than half-a-dozen short of the Rule of Six, so as to avoid close Covid contact.

Duck’s Egg’s work is entitled Celebration of L’œuf.  Would Easter eggs already be in evidence I wondered.  But no, the quirky spelling has nothing to do with eggs or, to my disappointment, nothing to do either with the preoccupation in spring of a young man’s fancy.  It has much more to do with tennis, a game invented in France.  The spelling of love might be a red herring, as the company are clearly cricket types, so perhaps they were out to catch us.

The French connection comes from their days of Provençal lassitude, when the backward French peasants described the English company’s output in the vineyards by their quaint verb orez.  But even deficits have their place.  The Welsh have Llareggub, courtesy of Dylan Thomas (known as DT to his friends), and the Cotswolds has Adlestrop (unforgettable, the name) where, well … a few birds sang. 

Only the Name — and Birds

So, what about Celebration of L’œuf, the show itself?   What can one say?  For one to boast, it would be one boast too much.    Here though was remarkable show, encompassing all the arts, in all their paucity, distilled into an homage of the achievements of these genres during the pandemic.

The term performing arts speaks drama but drama has not spoken live for a year.  Duck’s Egg being such a company reveals in Celebration of L’œuf the dumb drama of the pandemic.  The Bard himself knew all about theatre lockdowns, and so speaks silently for Covid.  Enobarus in Antony and Cleopatra sums it all up succinctly, “Naught, naught all, naught! I can behold no longer”.  And this was the theme of the Celebration of L’œuf  … so this line was not delivered.  Neither was the whole of Much Ado About Nothing.  Shakespeare presciently wrote a whole play on the subject of our theatre’s last twelve months!  The title is notoriously a double-entendre, but in this case the oxymoron shouts silently, as did our company. 

Drama opportunities also missed were the suspense of the opening of The Real Inspector Hound, and of course the text-free version of Waiting for Godot; it is far too wordy anyway. 

The production witnessed in Nonsuch Park is not so much subversive theatre as inverse theatre.   The symbol 1/ kept flashing thorough my mind.  It may have been a covert mathematician trying to get out, but the profound subject of Celebration of L’œuf has exercised the minds of philosophers and physicists.  The later know they cannot work in a vacuum, yet in cryogenics they still search for absolute zero, while in astronomy that look for empty space and only come up with dark matter.  Let me tell them they have plenty of dark matter in this production, where Duck’s Egg have truly reached absolute zero.

Theatre Perfarmances in Lockdown , after Robert Rauschengerg

The visual arts too has struggled during the pandemic with absence.  Giotto, it is said, made the perfect O: what a symbol of nothing.  On the other hand, minimalists minimalise the minimal.  Robert Rauschenberg’s White Painting is visually the sine qua non when it comes to illustrating the thesis of Celebration of L’œuf.

However, it is in the performing art of music that Duck’s Egg really comes into its own.  Noting that Beethoven was the master of the sudden pause, manipulating silence, a subject of which sadly he had intimate knowledge.   Oh, the saving grace of an unrealised grace note!   Simon and Garfunkel said their “The Sound of Silence is about the inability to communicate”.   It’s all there, isn’t it … or rather it’s not.  The stroke of genius though in this production was the finale, a full recital of all three movements of John Cage’s 4′33″ …  played with a complete absence of musicians.  What brilliance!  What economy!

I am lost for words to sum up Celebration of L’œuf, but when asked by a colleague if he hadn’t missed much, I was able in all honesty to say, “Oh no, you missed nothing!”

Avril Sunisa, April 2021

Photography by Dr Neil Clifton, Susannah Fullerton and Plumas Atómicas

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