Sunday, June 15, 2008

Relocated by Anthony Neilson, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 11-Jun-2008 – Directed by Anthony Neilson

When I booked for this play it didn't have a title. I suspect that it may only have been a very early draft then, if it existed at all. The powerful presence of a Germanic figure keeping his daughter as a brood mare in the cellar indicates that it must have undergone a major rewrite in late April. Other people, Germanic and otherwise, have been discovered to have kept young women locked up for a long time, recently but the Austrian case that broke in April must have been an inspiration.
I didn't think that it suffered from this “up to the rehearsal” writing, the actors certainly seemed to know what they were doing. What I found remarkable was how closely integrated the new material was with, what must have been, the older stuff.
Overall it did have a ripped-from-the-headlines feel almost as if it had been written with a TV news channel on in the background. The story showed the way a woman had to shift her identity as she fled from public suspicions of her complicity in a Soham-like murder. It reminded me of a fictional or factual depiction I'd seen of a woman with multiple personality disorder who would create a new personality as a reaction to a major stressful incident. The new personality would become the dominant one for a time and other identities would be forgotten but would slowly impinge on the new one.
Another real story that I thought was woven into the structure was the case of a man that pretended to be a secret agent and kept a group of deluded recruits on the run from imagined terrors and plots. They gave him money, bore his children and changed their identities at his whim.
The set, which we had to pass through on the way to the seats, was a completely black low-ceilinged room with black shuttered windows to let in light when opened. We were divided from the stage by gauze screen which was sometimes lit from the front and side to obscure the room. There was a vexatious thread dangling from the middle of the screen which was noticeable when these lights were on. I’m not sure that the thread was a deliberate annoyance but it looked too big to have been missed by the stage-crew.
I’m not sure if I’d claim that there was a theme to Anthony Neilson’s work but this play did have the dissociative quality of a dream, which is familiar from other works. In this case it may have all been a dream by a woman who has fainted while doing the housework with a TV news channel on in the background.



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