The medieval poem Pearl describes the dream of a distraught father who, bereaved of his two-year-old daughter, seeks her in the image of a pearl. It's a work regarded as psychologically probing, theologically profound and extraordinarily complex in its poetic form. It doesn't just sound alien to modern ears — it belongs to world that is apparently pretty hard to get a measure of even after years of study.

That this production exists at all therefore seems a small miracle. Anyone who cares about the history of English literature will be gladdened that there seems to be a place and audience for works like this; but most of all they will appreciate that 'Dancing Brick' have apparently defied their own moniker to fashion an approach which is elegant, intelligent and sensitive.

At the heart of Perle is a wonderful meeting of form and theme. Thomas Eccleshare's restrained use of silent mime for an absent body — for his lost child — gives the story and his movements a perfect context. Alongside his almost Commedia dell'arte approach, limited props in the form of a stack of VHS tapes and an old boxy TV are used to poignant effect as he communicates his thoughts, dreams and actions through projections on the screen.

Sometimes these can be as simple as showing vegetables being prepared for a sandwich; when he stands behind the television his movements complete the image. At other times we see his dreams unspool in monochrome cartoon landscapes. When he wakes he tries to pause and rewind them (you might sense a gesture here towards current anxieties as to how much of our personal memories we give over to defunct, even moribund technology). The point is made that both grief and technology can be isolating. Meanwhile, inventiveness and self-conscious humour (including some great sound effects in Harry Blake's score) keep the action from becoming overly maudlin. More immediately engaging moments, as when Eccleshare fearlessly (and successfully) interacts with the audience, also help leaven the story.

Even so, the faux naivety, the theme of parental grief and the extraordinary care with which the production is put together don't always make for the most comfortable fit – though they may be analogous to the exemplary technical detail of the source material. Whenever the focus slips the production begins to seem slightly schematic; a project fulfilling a litany of techniques that supersede authenticity (when a book on the stages of grief is referenced it demonstrates how few of the apparent stages have been performed).  

It is uncomfortable too that the identity of the absent daughter is held back to create suspense – cheapening the fact of death in having us guess the identity of the victim. Nor finally is the conclusion, a rather literal interpretation of the poem, perhaps as consoling to modern audiences usually bereft of a faith in any divine paradise, as it might have been to the first readers of the poem.

But these are minor quibbles. This project is so singular, and indeed charming, you would need to be hard-hearted indeed not to feel a sniffle coming on.

Perle, at Soho Theatre

Those who enjoy their 14th century poems about parental grief recapitulated through a combination of mime, monochrome cartoons and old tech will be overjoyed by Perle. At Soho Theatre.

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