Ferguson and Barton – The Studio

Co-Created and Performed by Lucy Ireland and Jim Manganello

Creative Production by Helen McIntosh

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Just what is Vertigo anyhow? The film critic side wants to push for its tertiary genre as a psychological thriller, a romantic drama, and of course a tragedy. But when transitioning to the stage, MANIPULATE 2023’s second Hitchcock-inspired piece, Glasgow-based Shotput Theatre’s Ferguson and Barton brings additional elements when re-visiting the story for their revival following a pre-lockdown showcase.

We’ve all sat with someone to watch a film that divides us: and polarises us in its themes, messages, and even quality. Ferguson and Barton toy with the power dynamics of a charming and quant relationship, a fictional romantic pairing played by co-creators Lucy Ireland and Jim Manganello. But there is more than a simple pastiche to Vertigo. And while it is not essential to grasp the original film, there is an unquestionable truth that those who know the film will have a tighter and faster enjoyment of Manganello and Ireland’s references, homages and moments of interaction as the skeleton of this production.

The language of the film is stripped and scattered across The Studio stage, and it’s within the bones of the film that Ferguson and Barton dip in and out as it dangles the driving force of the pair’s attraction – but the sincere question is whether or not their pairing is romantic, comfortable, or heaven forfend something altogether darker with its ominous tickle of paranoia.

Lingering amongst the charm and humour, Ireland and Managanello undergo a role-play to re-enact elements of the film they have just watched, Vertigo with superb characterisation. Chiefly a mix of dance-orientated storytelling, Shotput infuses theatrical elements and live cinema throughout, with the cinematic elements reinforcing the presence of eyes throughout – not only our own but the watching of one another – the framing of the stage often structured more like a film set than a stage.

It leans heavily into the mask analogy of theatre, though this time with screens: what’s on-screen and what we’re seeing don’t always align, and how we’re manipulated into positioning these images together. Rob Willoughby’s video design, with Emma Jones’ lighting, plays tremendously into the visual nature of the production without overstimulating.

Expectantly the superior skillset, the movement, plays second-fiddle to cinematic and performance-orientated storytelling. There’s a diverse range of dance, much passionate writhing and knotting, with a few of the Old Hollywood soft-shoes and twinkle-toes tossed in for good measure – but they feel like accoutrements, rather than threaded tightly into the storytelling. Breathers between the ‘acts’ as each genre of the film are analysed. What it does do is solidify emotional integrity, and the shifting balance of power and leadership in their relationship – but needs to have a more grounded presence within the show to have a true impact.

So, does Glasgow-based Shotput Theatre Ferguson and Barton, an entirely original physical theatre piece drawing from Vertigo, succeed in similarly crafting different takes on their relationship? As it pries open the dynamics of what they once assumed stable, blending a cauldron of expressive forms; dance, performance, cinema, and music that thread Vertigo’s plot and the dynamics of a relationship become concurrent and tied together.

Perhaps it’s all a touch too subtle. There’s a learning curve for those unfamiliar with the original film, and in trying to communicate its plot elements, and auteur themes, all whilst ensuring the production itself remains at steady pacing, Shotput begin to juggle one too many elements and begins to lose coherency and flow. It’s nevertheless a valiant piece from the Glasgow-based team, which will find sparkling enjoyment from some, mild bemusement and a trip to IMDB for others.

Juggles Too Many Elements

Additional information relating to Ferguson and Barton, and Shotput Theatre may be obtained here.

Runs for one hour without interval.


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