Thursday 7 November 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Tom Cassani: I Promise You That Tonight - The Lowry Theatre, Salford.

There have only been a handful of WTF Wednesdays so far. But, what it offers is the chance to see new artists and unconventional contemporary performances in the making. It is a “Pay What You Decide” event and a chance to voice your opinion as an audience member. A valuable platform and an amazing opportunity for the performers and creators involved. This wonderful event is put on by The Lowry in collaboration with the brilliant, Word Of Warning.

Tonight’s performance was written and performed by Tom Cassani. He is a Performance Artist and honest about being a Liar (written like it’s a job title). His current artistic practice is exploring the elements of deception, misdirection, and lying. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Tom Cassani’s work before and find his playful fusion of magic with contemporary performance fascinating and absorbing. Totally my cup of tea.

“I Promise You That Tonight” was a striking and actually earth-shattering smash-up of showmanship, deception, and unanticipated miracles – all centred around the stunt of walking on a path or river of broken glass. Featuring fragments of spoken word, text, action, magic tricks, and live art with the power to elicit a sharp audience reaction. Cassani uses magic, a deceitful art form, to expose truth and honesty, like when it comes to social interaction and the promises we keep or don’t keep. He might be lying to us but he is honest about his dishonesty. I promise.

The summary for this show was a beautiful enigma in itself. This piece had something to do with switching this box for that box, drowning but in different senses of the word (even in broken glass), and things were never what they seemed. A reminder to remain suspicious of people who make extraordinary claims. The performance dived into a theatrical sea of metaphors and symbolism related to varying kinds of pain and suffering where some of these things were real and some were not. There was a sort of audience/performer game in trying to spot which of his statements were true and which were not; looking for contradictions in his words. Cassani repeated a few of the stories, perhaps one version actually happened and the other account did not.

Cassani has markedly developed his performance style. He had a relaxed but serious presence. The way he spoke could be likened to letting you in on a closely guarded secret. There was a subtle eccentricity, particularly in his facial expressions and his eyes. The production concept and his own performance at times possessed an unnerving quality, yet you felt comfortable enough to keep watching. You couldn’t stop watching.

Live and recorded sound was experimented with. Every small live sound or action was emphasised and glorified. This especially made an impact when you could hear the glass been crushed under Cassani’s bare feet. The background (somewhat tuneful) drone sound exacerbated feelings of tension in the moments of crescendo. In addition, there were well-judged instances of silence which highlighted the action on stage. Meanwhile, the lighting design by Nigel Edwards played on the natural earthly elements. There was a lovely moment of light reflection too as one of the mirrored buckets of glass was held up in the air.

There aren’t many people creating theatre just like this. Cassani is hurtling towards exciting creative territory. If you’re a fan of magic, contemporary performance, or seeking out the truth, this performance is 100% for you. If you haven’t attended one of these performance evenings yet, WTF are you doing? Go and see the stimulating new work that’s out there!

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 6/11/19

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