Voices Made Night
2 stars **
Assembly Hall (Venue 35)
Rarely in the history of the Fringe can so many fine actors have worked so hard, to so little effect, as in this impressive-looking but misconceived show staged by Assembly with Magnet Theatre, and the Baxter Theatre of Cape Town. Based on two books of short stories by the acclaimed Mozambican writer Mia Couto, Voices Made Night adopts an insistently magic-realist style – all feast-of-the-dead face-paint, and bodies draped across the aisle – to tell a series of five or six tales about people poised between life and death, living out their days with varying degrees of madness and eccentricity.
That there is plenty of potential in Couto’s stories seems clear, and the eight-strong South African cast contains at least four truly brilliant performers. In the end, though, Mark Fleishmann’s production seems to misunderstand the nature of magic realism, which is not about the grotesque and the weird, but about the asolutely human and normal, just slightly twisted towards magic. In Fleishmann’s production, the style becomes tiresome, the stories ever less easy to grasp; and there’s a sense of important material being lost, in an overwrought production that will not let the words speak for themselves, through recognisable human voices.