Review: The Birthday of the Infanta

It’s the twelfth birthday of the Infanta (that’s a Spanish princess) and for today only she’s allowed to play with other children.  We are invited to a celebration and all number of wondrous acts are assembled to play before the great princess.  But it is one, an ugly boy who dances, a little fearfully and uncertainly at first but later with great freedom, that most catches her eye.  She laughs heartedly, much to the dislike of her elders.  The Infanta is beautiful and elegant and the ugly boy is captivated by her.  She hands him a flower, a flower that he will never let go of ever again.  Though this is a bittersweet story and I’m saddened to say that it does not have a happy ending for there is a great price to pay for mixing with children not of the same rank.  And there are great lessons to be learned about the truths of ugliness.

Trestle Unmasked present a magical style of physical storytelling and enchanting theatre.  Never could one imagine a one-woman play, even less one performer, to maintain so engagingly, a story with such variety and number of characters.  Georgina Roberts is a wonder, bringing such life and physicality to any number of characters and even creatures, with apparent ease and returning to them with instant recognition.  Her portrayal of the twelve year-old Infanta is particularly terrific with delightful inquisitive shyness and alluring beauty.  Trestle’s ability to develop such beautiful and imaginative theatre through combining all aspects of story, physicality, choreography, music and design is pure brilliance.  For young people, the imaginative and at times gently participatory nature of this performance is compelling and the intense relationship between the audience and the single performer is fascinating.

The story was written by Oscar Wilde and inspired originally by a Velasquez painting ‘Las Meninas’.  The painting shows the Infanta in centre with her attendants arranged around her in the room.  In the background is seen a character seemingly observing quietly from the shadows and it is this character imagined in Wilde’s story to be the ugly boy.  The storyteller is said to be within the painting also.  Picasso appeared to have a great affection for this painting, taking his own impressions with over fifty attempts.

This incredible story is merely a seed however, set to grow in the imagination of those lucky enough to hear it.  The great depths and questions explored within its rich text and more elaborately in this stunning piece of theatre, are set to draw lines of parallel between the princess with her father, distracted in mourning for her mother, looked to for her royalty, and the ugly boy, unwanted by his father and looked at for being different.

This piece sets your imagination alive for an imagination fuelled by a story told by Trestle is one both captivated and set free at the same time.

Runs until 27th March 2011 at the Unicorn Theatre and touring until May.


Written on behalf of The Public Reviews

Copyright © The Public Reviews & theatreJunki 2011.


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