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> > > DaDaFest International 2014: Sheila Hill's 'Him'

Writer/theatre-maker and installation-artist Sheila Hill received an Unlimited research and development award to work with actor Tim Barlow to create ‘Him’. The resulting film was shown at DaDaFest 2014 as part of a session titled 'Unlimited: the Artists Voice'. Review by Liz Porter

black and white side portrait of the face of Tim Barlow

Tim Barlow. Photo © Hugo Glendinning

'Him' is a short black and white film featuring actor Tim Barlow: an old man sitting on a stage conveying a myriad of fleeting emotions. 

The first time I had the pleasure to see Tim Barlow perform was at the Edinburgh Festival in the late 1980’s. I caught the first part of his acclaimed one-man show ‘My Army’ that he devised with Theatre De Complicite. 

It was an outstanding piece of personal storytelling that captured the audience’s imagination. Warm and funny, we were drawn into Tim’s world as he traversed a series of anecdotes about his life in the army and the onset of his deafness. The stage came to life through his interaction with props, chairs and the audience. (I recall a dance sequence when he entices an audience member to join him). Being a Complicite piece of work, chairs featured heavily. 

He developed three shows between 1991 and 2007 to tell the full story including his life as an actor. ‘My Army One’ was so powerful it has stayed with me ever since and was undoubtedly the piece of work that led me to take a more proactive approach in my own practice. It sparked a desire to create a one-woman show, which I’m now in the process of doing. 

So when I heard that Tim was collaborating with Sheila Hill to create a new piece of work for Unlimited I was extremely excited knowing we would be in for something extraordinary. 

The R&D film ‘Him’ is a starting point for a new show, although impressively it stands alone as a unique piece of work. It completely and utterly lives up to my expectations. Its simplicity of style is captivating. We see a head shot of Tim, which takes up the screen, shot in black and white. The audience is presented with a remarkable and tender portrayal of the ageing process. 

Tim’s expressive face with a thousand lines of wisdom and lived experience; eyes that dance and draw us in, allowing silence to speak volumes allowing space to allow us to breath in and hang onto the words. An excellent example of ‘less is more’ that has you both laughing and crying in the space of a few minutes.

Last September at the Southbank Centre Sheila Hill talked about the process of putting this new piece together: how they stripped everything back to the real essence of allowing Tim to let thoughts enter his mind and speak them out. 

The result is delightful and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Please click on this link to read more about Sheila Hill's commission on the Unlimited website