Lyric Hammersmith, London W6
Opened 2 April, 2008

One of the recurring interests of the Shunt performance collective and various of its members and collaborators seems to be the spectator’s gaze, the blurred line between performance-watching and voyeurism. Now Shunt’s David Rosenberg has created a piece in which an audience, seated on the elevated outdoor terrace of the Lyric Hammersmith (tip: do wrap up warm), watches a murderous vignette unfold through a number of office windows on the other side of the square. We are equipped with binoculars, which limit the field of vision to one window at a time whereas the naked eye can rapidly shuttle between several pieces of simultaneous action; however, only through the binoculars can we discern at least one of the twists in the tale.
The combined effect is somewhere between Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Francis Coppola’s The Conversation: we are not only witnessing events but trying to piece them together as they occur. Rosenberg’s programme notes suggest that he is at least as interested in the binaural soundscape transmitted to us through headphones. To be honest, this struck me as more problematic, since its pre-recorded nature means that the four performers are in the odd position of having to mime to the sounds of their own actions, as it were. Max and Ben Ringham’s acoustic design is remarkable, though: more than once I had to prise an earpiece away from my head to check that various sounds were not occurring in the real world.
It is the violence that gives the piece its voyeuristic quality, but only at certain moments. At others, the dominant note is banal comedy: actor and comic Neil Edmond’s character, garrulous office nebbish Kim, bears all the hallmarks of an Edmond creation and is somewhat at odds with the more portentous elements. And overall, the 70-minute piece is less challenging than it could be. Six months ago, Australian company Back To Back performed their piece Small Metal Objects at Stratford station in east London, in which the miked-up actors mingled with hundreds of ordinary evening travellers. That event seemed to raise many more questions about the act of viewing, especially as on that occasion the audience themselves were just as conspicuous to the gaze of passers-by. In comparison, Rosenberg’s piece is a skilfully crafted curio.
Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

Return to index of reviews for the year 2008

Return to master reviews index

Return to main theatre page

Return to Shutters homepage