In Ellipsism, the audience is promised a ‘melancholic and uplifting’ portrait of Napoleon, showing him in a new light. Instead, we’re given a petulant Emperor played mostly for laughs in a script which aims high but doesn’t quite succeed.
The story follows Napoleon’s last days under house arrest, and should be praised as an original and ambitious concept.
Costuming is used to great effect to create a credible sense of period, Napoleon in particular, and the production transforms Burdall’s Yard into a thrust stage, making excellent use of space and movement.
The strongest characters in Ellipsism were the most unassuming. Liam Atwood’s deadpan delivery wins out over the other, more obvious gags, whilst his wife, played by Katharine Doheny-Adams, brings the acting to a much higher level in a performance brimming with emotion.
Together, they share the best written scene of the show, the culmination of their marital difficulties and the only moment of sophisticated storytelling.
Unfortunately, the script itself consists of dialogue always straining to contrive the next plot-development, with little in the story feeling natural – a critical flaw in a historical drama.
Ellipsism sacrifices its melancholic aspirations for humour, but that humour is, on the whole, quite strong. Even if Sacah Sananes’s Napoleon is a caricature, not a portrait, he was funny throughout (though his diction was often hard to understand).
Repackaged and rewritten to focus on comedy, perhaps Ellipsism would have worked, but its dual personality trips over itself when reaching for emotional, or philosophical resonance.
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Reviewer: Joshua Lambert | Rating: 2.5 Stars | Production: On Set