Hampstead Theatre, London NW3
Opened 2 February, 1993

A provincial town in northern France; a hotel lobby; a man; a woman; a divorce hearing. After nearly four years apart, Michel and Anne-Marie return to the town that was never quite their home, struggling and failing to find an emotional resolution to match the legal one. Geraldine Pilgrim's set is spot on in its anonymous institutional luxury, and Chahine Yavroyan's lighting steers us slowly and persistently through the night ten hours or so represented by 90 continuous minutes onstage. No attempts to melodramatise the stilted, stifled characters are made either by director Joseph Blatchley or the actors: Larry Lamb showing the still-guttering flame of the torch Michel carries for Harriet Walter's superbly undermined Anne-Marie, not as certain in her new life as she had believed.

Marguerite Duras captures with acuteness and exactitude the intensity of a relationship even especially at the point of its dissolution; captures, but does not convey. Each line, each move, is judged with microscopic precision, and the tone is beautifully elegiac, but it's a beauty of craft rather than of rapture; no comparable sensations or memories are evoked in the audience. The relationship is strung between a chain of glimpses and not-glimpses Michel watches Anne-Marie in a cinema or a bar, she catches sight of him on a railway platform, the behaviour of each a revelation, denuded of proximity to the other and we, too, are afforded a glimpse, but no substantial insights.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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