Friday, 1 May 2009

Interiors - Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith

Created by Vanishing Point

Conceived and directed by Matthew Lenton
Reviewer: Honour Bayes

One of the delights of travelling at night, whether it is on a smooth train or a winding car journey, is the cheeky view that you can get into any number of unsuspectingly lit up houses. People washing up, going to bed, watching television or families at dinner; we can view their lives in silent technicolour. These pockets of warmth and capsules of human interaction are mesmerizing, especially when viewed, incognito, from the comfort of the outer darkness.

A similar voyeuristic pleasure can be taken from Vanishing Point’s gentle new piece Interiors which plays out behind a very real but practically invisible 4th wall, making the whole experience slightly like a scene from Rear Window. This wall comes in the form of a clear Perspex front to a kitschy and warm family living room in the middle of the darkling snows of a bleak Nordic mid-winter. A group of friends have gathered at Andrew’s house to ce
lebrate the longest night of the year and the consequential onset of the summer light in Matthew Lenton’s modern take on Maurice Maeterlink’s original play, Interior.

Here, Maeterlink’s interrupting and watching strangers who interrupt the party with tragic news have been transformed into a lone ghostly female figure who infuses this otherwise domestic comedy of manners with poignant musings on human existence. The girl’s voice punctuates the silent action of the dinner guests, sometimes illuminating their thoughts, their wants, their spoken words and even their future deaths with a mixture of childlike glee at their awkwardness and sad envy at their rich reality. This separation of word and gesture and blending of past, present and future tense leaves a gap which is filled with a continuous energy and tension in an intensely hypnotic and delightfully unhurried production.

Finn Ross’ haunting projections of water, snow and an ever watching moon, create a sense of the oppressive and icy Nordic environment and give the snug interi
or the feel of an aquarium; an impression which is propitiated by the eerie lack of noise. These ‘humans in their natural environment’ mingle and chat, going through the motions in performances which successfully walk the fine line between naturalism and the overtly expressive. In the silence, each delicate look and gesture becomes important as we see relationships crumble and grow, the smallest minutia of human interaction taking on sudden significance in subtle but often incredibly funny and engaging characters, performed with understated grace by our uniformly strong ensemble cast.

For all this, coming out of the production one feels unsure of what to think and although shifting impressions are left, no clear pictures can be conjured of the story at hand. It is hard not to feel that ultimately this entrancing, if slightly bemusing, production is more like a scientific exploration into human interaction than a piece of drama. But as it floats serenely in front of you, like a blazing dot on the horizon of a dark black sea, Interiors will engulf you in its strange, slow magic and then pass by leaving you wondering if it had ever been there at all. Baffling it may be, but confusing as it is, this is intense and tender encounter is definitely one worth having.
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