Friday, May 23, 2008

Mission impossible | Theatre story | Arts:

It's the kind of work, in other words, that needs thoughtful handling - and that's what Cheek By Jowl excels at. Founded in 1981, the company sprang into being during one of British theatre's periodic bouts of obesity - a time when Lloyd Webber showstoppers were all the rage and massive, concept-obsessed productions dominated the subsidised sector. Donnellan and Ormerod, aspiring young director and designer respectively (and partners in real life), wanted to turn things around. Their company would be small, supple, and cheap to run. It would travel incessantly. And it would offer an eclectic repertoire, small-scale, boutique versions of core English plays alongside big European scripts - Sophocles through to Corneille and Racine. Somehow, it all worked: with Ormerod's clean, lean designs and Donnellan's irreverent yet subtle direction, they developed a reputation for teasing the intricacies from classic texts while skewering the pieties that surround them.