Velvet Scratch - Voyage of No Return
nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
August 8, 2008
Walking into the theatre we see three women, two of them prostrate on the floor, caught in a giant spider web of string. Their clothes are in tatters, they are filthy, and their faces have been powdered white, with giant black circles around their eyes. Then they begin to cackle. A man plays an electric guitar in the far corner. They keep cackling. Everything is white or off-white save the black around the eyes and the red of the strawberries that the standing woman is squeezing, watching with glee as it drips like blood onto the floor.
This is the world of Velvet Scratch – Voyage of No Return. The strawberry woman turns out to be creator/director/main performer Anastasia Revi, who serves as our nameless narrator. Revi cackles with joy as she informs us that this is the underworld and everyone here is dead, although she cannot remember how she herself died. While she attempts to remember, she introduces us to the other dead characters, all played by performers Laura Morgan and Alexandra Dyranis-Maounis. Through narration, a bit of re-enactment, and sometimes a song, we learn of the gruesome, untimely ends of the inhabitants of Velvet Town. One girl cut off her toes and subsequently bled to death because she wanted to fit into a pair of ballet slippers. Another put on a corset and it was pulled so tight she died.
In the program, it says the atmosphere is reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe, Tim Burton, and Gabriel García Márquez. Personally, I most aligned it to Edward Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies. Regardless, you get it—it's macabre. But I almost feel like it tries too hard to be so. Every time death is mentioned, we hear the chorus of cackling girls. I feel like it would actually have been creepier and more disturbing if we weren't constantly reminded that we were supposed to be scared and put off. Strawberries and velvet also hold a great importance, although I never figured out why.
Velvet Scratch is a creation of the Theatre Lab Company, "a London-based international company, founded in 1997 by Greek Artists living and working in the UK." The staging of the play very much reflects their European background, veering away from realism and using movement to convey a lot of the gorier parts. Though a guitar accompanies most all of the action, the music is uninteresting and doesn't add anything unique.
This production is more about mood and atmosphere than about story and characters. It is almost more like a weird haunted house than a play. It does, however, feature a fantastic performer. Laura Morgan plays perhaps a half-dozen characters, and while her physicality and voice change only a little between characters, you get the feeling that her soul changes completely for each one.