Published in the Guardian
Vanishing Point, three stars
The play by Arthur Miller that became Death of a Salesman was originally called The Inside of His Head, but the title could apply equally to Vanishing Point's nightmarish contribution to the final week of the Edinburgh international festival. The head in question belongs to a "normal and healthy" middle-class father, played by Paul Thomas Hickey, whose exterior reality – cosy nights in watching The X Factor – contrasts with his predilection for sadistic chatroom porn.
His 18-year-old daughter, meanwhile, is playing little-girl-lost as she makes her own forays into online sex, changing her name from Alice to Heidi and stepping through the looking glass to star in what look increasingly like snuff movies. Played by Jenny Hulse, she is not the victim she seems, but neither is she fully in control.
Matthew Lenton's production excels in its impressionistic visions of people caught in a pornographic arms race as they seek ever greater levels of degradation, but at the cost of making the audience wallow in the same miserable material.
Rather like the depressingly nihilist Morning by Simon Stephens, part of the Traverse's fringe season, Wonderland offers no psychological insight and no possibility of redemption. The pervasiveness of pornography in the private and public spheres is an important subject for dramatic exploration, but the extreme violence depicted here is so obviously a bad thing that there's no room for ambiguity or debate – just a disempowering feeling of despair.
© Mark Fisher, 2012
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