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Adler & Gibb

First Published 20 June 2014, Last Updated 6 August 2014

What’s it all about?

Children pretend to be animals, lobsters masquerade as sticks, actors play other actors; you can be excused for feeling confused as you’re reading this. The same feeling confounded the minds of most of last night’s audience as they watched the opening scenes of Tim Crouch’s new play at the Royal Court.

More baffling than the England football team’s defence, the production certainly doesn’t have the most straight-forward plot to unfold on the London stage in recent weeks. The tale of fictional artists Janet Adler and Margaret Gibb, Adler & Gibb is framed by a presentation in which a student tries to prove herself worthy of a scholarship. As she goes into detail about the life and work of the non-existent lesbians, she calls upon the help of her slides. But this is no place for PowerPoint, her visual aids come in the form of the performances on stage.

Who’s in it?

Rachel Redford perfectly captures the nervousness of the student whose fate is in the process of being decided. She stops and starts, stutters and stammers, cleverly conjuring the effect of not quite knowing her speech off by heart. Denise Gough and Brian Ferguson, as Louise and Sam, do most of the legwork on the stage itself, illustrating the student’s points with bizarre and, at times, hilarious performances as two individuals creating a film based on the lesbians’ lives. Special mention should also be given to the cast of children, who deliver props, play soundscapes and, on one occasion, fill the stage with clouds of smoke.

What should I look out for?

From the cute to the cruel, there is plenty to surprise audiences in Adler & Gibb, but the disturbing attack on a child, though symbolic of an altogether different act of violence, is perhaps the most shocking moment of all.

In a nutshell?

Tim Crouch takes audiences on a journey of bewilderment and discovery in this thought-provoking piece that questions the nature of art and reality.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@FuelTheatre: Adler & Gibb by @timcrouch1964 @royalcourt is food for the brain. It’s funny & so quietly vile. And we are all implicated. Brilliant. LB

@CatherineLove21: My brain is too sleepy to be grappling with Adler & Gibb this morning. A fascinating slow burn of a play that wriggles away from analysis.

Will I like it?

There’s no hiding the fact that not everyone who visits the Royal Court in the next few weeks is going to enjoy what they see in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs. But, then again, not everyone enjoys the five star hits that have longstanding residencies in the capital. Theatre, like art, is subjective and there is unlikely to be another show this year that divides opinion as much as this one.

If you’re a fan of Crouch’s work or have an interest in conceptual art, pay Adler & Gibb a visit and find out which side of the fence you sit on.

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