Tramway, Glasgow, 29 September 2010, and touring
IT SEEMS odd to praise the acting in a production in which nobody speaks, but in Vanishing Point's remarkable show, the performances are of a very high standard indeed. I'd go further and say Matthew Lenton's actors are the best ensemble on stage in Scotland this side of Black Watch.
So how can this be?
Well, the idea of this immaculately presented show, inspired by a play called Interior by Maurice Maeterlinck, is that we are looking through glass windows into the living room of some northerly house where a dinner party is taking place on the longest night of the year.
We can hear nothing of the guests' conversation (although we do get to share in the sounds of ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ as the evening gets into its stride) and instead, we follow what is going on by observing their body language, with helpful hints from a disembodied voice giving a spookily all-knowing commentary.
So we take note of the initial conversational awkwardness, the sexual manoeuvres and the building camaraderie. We see moments of embarrassment, passages of abandonment and scenes of awkwardness and irritation.
It is often very funny, but it is also beautifully observed and cleverly understated. We realise what we are watching is not a drama of heightened emotion and extraordinary intensity, but one of everyday joys and disappointments. It is played in the same minor key as a comedy by Anton Chekhov or Mike Leigh and – speaking or not – the actors invest their roles with a touching and honest humanity.
If it went only that far, you could call it whimsical or even a gimmick, like a soft-centred silent movie. But Interiors goes much further than that. As the party wears on, so the shadow of death looms ever larger. We realise the disembodied voice is not a dispassionate narrator but an absent protagonist, and the play takes on a universal dimension.
Slowly we see that the rituals, the foibles and the failures might be minor in themselves, but they are what make the characters the people they are. By reminding us of our mortality, the play becomes a moving celebration of ordinary life.
Along with Kai Fischer's unforgettable domestic set, complete with ghostly video projections and an emotive score by Alasdair Macrae, this partially recast production justifies every one of its three gongs in the 2009 Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. Audacious, nourishing and poignant, it is essential viewing.
Interiors is at the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness, on 8-9 October 2010.
© Mark Fisher 2010
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