Friday, October 09, 2009

Notes on PRIMO

I began watching Antony Sher's PRIMO yesterday and came to realize I knew these words, either because I've read Primo Levi's autobiography--but have forgotten I did so--or because the details of transportation and internment of European Jews at Auschwitz are so familiar.  I am protectively numb to them, in part to protect myself from the clacking, murderous idiocy of Holocaust deniers of both kinds:  the kind that deny it happened, and the kind that, while acknowledging the fact of it, find ways to minimize it--those who, in fact, do not care, or even secretly wished it succeeded even better than it did (yes, those people are out there, and they do not only lead middle eastern nations.)

So, I've only watched the opening twenty minutes or so, thus far.  I am most fascinated to watch Sher work.  He seems to be speaking Levi's text verbatim, as a monologue.  He enters the stage wearing comfortable trousers, buttoned-down shirt and tie, and sweater.  He wears large glasses.  His appearance is studious, quietly puzzled, matter-of-fact, eloquent out of necessity.  Sher clasps his hands in front of him most of the time.  He crosses the stage, faces us directly, shows his profile, curls subtly down his spine or back up it, cringes slightly, stiffens ever-so-slightly with courage he seems not to be aware of possessing, and so forth.  He talks and talks, apparently moving only a little, but in fact moving as decisively and premeditatedly as a dancer....  I was about to write that he seems to bring to it a quiet formalism, but that's not it.  Sher does not distance the material through theatricality, as that might imply.  

If I can find a recording of Anna Deavere Smith at work (for less than $50), I will be fascinated to see how she works similarly or differently.

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