Southwark Playhouse, London SE1
Opened 6 February, 2008

Analogue’s thoughtful, haunting 50-minute piece, which won the company a Fringe First award in Edinburgh last summer, gains more than it loses on transfer to Southwark Playhouse’s new semi-permanent space. The audience seating is not raked quite steeply enough to allow some lower-level moments to be seen clearly; as against that, the venue’s location in the vaults beneath London Bridge railway station, with the periodic rumble of trains overhead, adds further resonance (literally) to a piece originally inspired by a man’s death after being pushed in front of a Tube train.
We see perpetrator Michael gradually losing his grip on his life; his obsessions and delusions grow more fevered, he loses track of the dosage of his medication and (like his real-life counterpart) tries in vain to get himself institutionalised for fear that he will commit some act of violent madness. His scenes are intercut with those of victim Alex and his girlfriend Kate; Dan Rebellato’s script conveys both the banter and the spats of everyday couplehood, but also refuses to make normative contrasts between Alex’s behaviour in particular and Michael’s – they are both, he suggests, victims of modern urban dissociation.
Alex grows more and more distressed as he sees elements of a prophetic dream being fulfilled before him; this element, together with a slight twist and the use in addition of a red scarf as a visual emblem, lend the piece a shadowy, eerie air akin to that of Nicolas Roeg’s film version of Don’t Look Now. Inanimate objects such as pieces of paper are manipulated, especially around Michael, by masked, black-clad figures who on the one hand are akin to the supernumeraries of Japanese theatre, but in the context of this story also suggest that there are forces manipulating the characters toward their fatal confrontation. The whole staging (directors Hannah Barker and Liam Jarvis play Kate and Michael respectively) has a visual inventiveness, playing games with space and orientation, yet also an elegance, achieving these effects with minimal set and unostentatious lighting. It is a modest but impressive example of deploying visual and mixed-media techniques and a devising process successfully towards an identified goal rather than using them as ends in themselves.
Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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