The Shepherd's Chameleon an absurdist farce by the late, great Eugène Ionesco. Utopia theatre brings this lesser known play to light at Peckham's CLF Art Cafe.
You enter the space with some of the cast, in action, on the offset. Ionesco (named after the actual playwright himself) sits in a chair 'asleep' with his back to the audience, as well as two of the three doctors, both in a curious transfixion, who hound the writer throughout his stultifying account. One hovers in the sidelines as the other perches on the clutter of books, manuscripts, scraps of paper and pens that lace the stage.
The set wasn't overdressed. The actors explored the entire playing area and each prop served a purpose. The sound effects were timely and the lighting flagrant. The doctors' personalities were externalised through their costumes; Kid of FAME (mismatched, brightly coloured with lots of jangly jewellery), Drama Teacher (flowy, multilayered, with statement brooch) and Vintage Eccentric (big hair-sprayed do, extenuated makeup, minimalist).
The doctors, each bearing the name of Bartholomeus, enter Ionesco's subconsciousness in turn. Ionesco is asked by Bartholomeus I, II and III to read out the little he has written of his new play. This vicious circle is broken by a fourth knock on the door that is ignored, causing the discussion to move forward. The three supposed experts dissect and over-contextualise Ionesco's material.
The doctors were played by Lucie Chester, Olivia Nicholson and Sarah Sharman. Each had a distinct style and presence. Lucie Chester and Olivia Nicholson quite literally butt heads together in competition, like two raging mountain goats. Where as Sarah Sharman had a more fluttery and well measured approach to her role. Thom Solberg as Ionesco on the otherhand depicts his character very naturalistically. Maybe a little too inwardly played but a nice contrast all the same.
It is definitely 'a fast-paced physical production' as Utopia Theatre describes, but perhaps some of the key lines were lost as an effect. Thom Solberg, I felt, lacked confidence not as his character but as an actor. A bit more fervency whilst delivering Ionesco's harangue to the three Barts was needed. But all in all, a stylised performance from all involved and an enjoyable watch for such a highbrowed text.