Tramway, Glasgow, 8 October 2011, and touring
SILENT MOVIES survived for decades before audiences got to hear what the actors were saying, so perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised by Vanishing Point's Saturday Night. Like its companion piece Interiors, from 2009, this international co-production is entirely wordless. It's like theatre for the pre-talkies generation.
The 90-minute performance is not mime either. The actors do appear to be talking to each other, it's just they're on the other side of a windowpane and we can't hear them. As in a silent movie, they communicate primarily through gesture and facial expression.
There's no sense of this being a game of charades. We follow the story of a young couple moving into a flat as if we are eavesdropping, piecing together our own account of events from the incomplete information we glean.
As we watch them carrying furniture and belongings into their new living room and bathroom, we gather that the friend who's helping them is a well-meaning dropout and that the upstairs neighbour is eccentric and temperamental. We understand that the young wife is pregnant, that the husband is fond of his electric guitar and that they have to take delivery of a pizza they didn't order.
A lot of this is funny. Seen in the privacy of the home, the characters behave in ways they never would in public, whether it's Sandy Grierson cavorting naked in his new flat or Gabriel Da Costa as his friend doing press-ups in the bathroom. But there's much more to Saturday Night than observational comedy.
With the mood set by Mark Melville's soundtrack of pop songs offset by ominous rumbles, we can tell something's not right. It's in the way the door to the garden swings open by itself and in the way the imagery from the television of the old lady upstairs seems to spill out into the whole house. Lara Hubinont as the new home owner goes out one door and mysteriously finds herself at another. Later she finds herself nine months pregnant without any time appearing to pass.
As vines creep in from the garden and the living room switches briefly into a pop video, the scene takes on the heightened realism of a David Lynch movie. The whole thing is like a confused dream - half TV documentary, half life that might have been. The contrast of the activity going on downstairs and the stillness of the old woman sitting upstairs makes a touching commentary on loneliness and the passage of time. Real or imagined, these are her memories and they haunt the house.
Looking stunning on Kai Fischer's set and performed with tremendous precision by the six-strong cast, it adds up to a production that is as captivating as it is unusual.
© Mark Fisher, 2011
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