The Arbor by Clio Barnard
Directed by Clio Barnard
Cornerhouse, 4 November 2010
This is a curious film in that the actors lip-synch the voices of the actual people depicted. Formally, one can view it as an extension of verbatim theatre.
The danger of this approach is that the actors may come across simply as puppets. However, the film is a resoundingly triumph. All of the actors are terrific, but Manjinder Virk, who ‘plays’ Andrea Dunbar’s troubled daughter Lorraine, is outstanding. And the emotion in the voices – well, it is there in spades.
The Arbor is about many things: the costs of art, the sins (or traumas or faults) of the parent being visited on the child, the troubled mess that genius so often leaves in its wake.
For make no mistake, Andrea Dunbar was a playwright of genius and she had an authentic working class voice (or maybe better ‘underclass voice’, following the ravages of Thatcherism) and an unswervingly accurate ear for working class speech. But she also had a penchant for abusive men and, when women find themselves hooked up with men like that, it’s because they feel they deserve no better. Her daughter Lorraine, unloved as a child, wound up a crack addict. These are not accidents.
The Arbor is a tale of two tragedies and a fine film.
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