Monday, 6 October 2014

Interiors @ Tramway

There’s little point in belabouring the excellence of Vanishing Point

Interiors scooped the CATS awards in 2009, even against the competition from David Leddy’s first run of the powerful Sub Rosa, and has more stars than a major constellation. The cast, silent behind a glass screen, bring the intense emotions and trivial interactions with appropriately naturalistic mime and the drama, allowing for typical theatrical compression, is naturalistic and nuanced. The voice-over does get rather over-wrought at times, but the willingness not to spell out the exact details, and the contrast between the exterior of the party and the emotional turmoil within is seamlessly handled.

It’s more interesting to consider Interiors’ message: essentially that to be human is to desire, but that death eventually takes us all. Interiors doesn’t turn this into a soft appeal for compassion. The detachment is almost Buddhist, while the final message, from the ghostly observer, is, paradoxically, inconclusive and slightly melodramatic.

Interiors doesn't quite celebrate life. It is a play of “almost” and “nearly”, constantly homing in on moments where one set of possibilities are opened, only to be abruptly closed. Young love almost flowers, a seduction is foiled, a marriage proposal is rejected, then mocked. The comedy is never cruel, but softens the intensity lurking in the interplay of the characters. Nothing really happens, although the characters seem to threaten sudden outbursts.

Interiors seems to be profound, yet offers little but a vague truism. Through its deceptively casual performances and measured direction, this absence of moral or meaning is, in itself, fascinating. It is as if Vanishing Point are refusing the convention that theatre has to have a message, and come close to actually expressing the anguish of a community disconnected and purposeless. The relationships between the characters are vague, their reason for assembling never clear, the empty seat at the table is never explained. This incompleteness is discomforting, lending the production a luminal, suspended languor.

The responses of the audience are equally fascinating. One Scottish performer claimed that he wanted his hour back, comparing it unfavourably with the sense of event that surrounded the revival of Blackwatch: another said she didn't understand the mention of polar bears, or why the ghost outside bothered dressing for winter after repeating that she didn't feel anything, anymore. These are more than quibbles, especially given the critical and popular reception of the play. They express the unease and discomfort Interiors generates. Their negative responses, however, do not detract from the importance of a play that so imaginatively uses the stage and actors to comment, albeit slightly, on the subtle conversations and disappointments of mundane life.

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