Archipelago, Sherling Studio, Poole Lighthouse

revarchipelagoA MAN and a woman. A story as old as time and as contemporary as today’s news. He and she finding each other, losing each other, finding each other again … in a town, a city, a country, perhaps a world in turmoil.

Caridad Svich asks more questions than she answers in Archipelago, the powerful play chosen for the opening of Poole Lighthouse’s new Sherling Studio.

It is a two-hander, played without an interval, with original music (by Shaftesbury-based composer Karen Wimhurst) that illuminates the background, sometimes with contradictory images, sometimes evoking the distances or connections between the characters, and occasionally with lyrical interludes.

Archipelago is about the eternal mystery of love – about the unseen magnets that draw people together, through shared beliefs or interests, or the happenstance of being in a certain place at a certain time, and about the forces that draw them apart, the gradual drift or the seismic shift, the terrorist’s bomb or the accidents of missed connections.

“I wanted to write something for the stage that looked at the boundaries of love,” says Svich, whose work includes her award-winning plays Guapa, The House of the Spirits, based on the Isabel Allende novel, and an adaptation of Jose Leon Sanchez’ Island of Lost Souls.

“Archipelago explores, as many plays do, ideas and realities of proximity and distance, perception and memory, and stories about who we love and why,” she says.

The actors are Lisa Caruccio Came and Nathan Ives-Moiba, whose performances are mesmerising in so many ways – verbal, visual, physical.

They have an intense chemistry which draws you into their complex and uncertain relationship. They move like dancers – at one point the piece becomes a wordless musical poem of two bodies that are drawn together, pulled apart and irresistibly reunited.

They span the gamut of emotions – sexual passion, romantic love, fear, distrust, anger, happiness, suspicion, anxiety, emptiness, desire, disappointment, hope. And they dazzle with the sheer virtuosity of their acting, mastering a script that is packed with complex ideas, word play, abstract poetry and subtle iterations.

Svich was born in Philadelphia to a Cuban-Spanish mother and Argentine-Croatian father, and spent her formative years crossing late 1960s America as the family moved from New Jersey variously to Utah, Florida, California and New York. That cultural heritage – with the complicated and often tragic histories of five different countries – seems to find an echo in her writing.

Director Stephen Wrentmore, the Lighthouse’s new artistic producer, told the Sherling Studio audience. “A world premiere is an extraordinary thing,” he said. “It is a piece of work that doesn’t have a road map.”

There is no GPS for Archipelago – you won’t know where you are going, and you won’t know where you are. But the journey is moving and exciting and memorable.

Archipelago continues to Saturday 3rd December, but thanks to a relationship with Black Theatre Live, which provided seed funding for the production, it is hoped that the play will have a national tour next year. FC

Photo: Richard Budd

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