Stockholm by Bryony Lavery West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds 16th -20th October, then on tour. Directed & Choreographed by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett Reviewed by Murray Moss
Stockholm Syndrome, which provides the central metaphor for this play, is the name for the strong and intimate relationship that perversely can exist between a victim and an aggressor in hostage situations. Stockholm is also the city that Todd and Kali, the two protagonists of the piece, are going to travel to for a dream holiday, part of Todd's birthday celebrations. So, who is the hostage and who is the aggressor in their relationship? Is Todd held hostage by Kali's unfeasibly fierce 'retro-jealousy' of his past and potentially present lover?Or is she hostage to his potential and possible infidelity? Who is this 'Louise' who has tried to call him on his mobile? Why won't she let him call his mother on his birthday?
Frantic Assembly continue their association with great living writers and Bryony Lavery has written a text that skilfully and economically traces and unravels Todd and Kali's relationship, dissecting their insecurities with an eye and ear as sharp as the row of knives that adorn the back of the kitchen in which most of the play is set. But this is no naturalistic kitchen-sink drama. The sharp and affecting acting is punctuated and driven along with layers of skilfully choreographed dance/movement: the couple show the story of their first dinner together, eating each other with knives and forks; the whole set meal takes place on the top of the electric hob in the kitchen, which serves as the restaurant table, a beautifully inventive and sensual movement section that plays itself out without a drop of wine being spilt. This is a fine example of the ensemble of two's excellent rapport: Georgina Lamb and Samuel James switch from heightened sex to vicious fight via witty and engaging storytelling, talking to the audience one moment, the next playing the unfolding and finely acted drama.
It looks good and it sounds good. The set and lighting and the sonic interventions, musically and otherwise are well judged and make an impact without being too intrusive or too flash. But the show is not perfect: I could criticise the writing and say that Kali needs to let us in on just a little more of her backstory; the direction could allow Todd to be a slightly more ambiguous character so that it remains even more unclear whether or not he really is having an affair; there is a danger that the end is too clunky. But there are some brilliant theatrical moments: Kali nearly drowns in a most unexpected way; Todd is gripped and levitated by fear; and the bed scene…
This is exciting and visceral theatre. It reminded me of Anthony Neilson's Stitching at the Traverse a few years ago in its energetic, truthful and committed performances by all concerned, writer, director(s) and actors. High Praise.
Photos byManuel Harlan and show Samuel James (Todd), Georgina Lamb (Kali)
Stockholm is on tour throught the coming months for more info visit http://www.franticassembly.co.uk
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