The Red Chair, Summerhall, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Clod Ensemble in association with Fuel
Sarah Cameron (Writer), Suzy Willson (Director), Paul Clark (Music) Hansjorg Schmidt (Lighting Design), Sarah Blenkinsop (Design)

Sarah Cameron, Chris Allan (cello), Calina de la Mare and Alison Dods (violin), Rachel Robson (viola) (recorded musicians)

Running time

Over the 100 minute performance, broken only by brief pauses for nibbles that include a madeleine cake, a medjool date, Valrhona chocolate and a dram of whisky (all sourced from local suppliers), Dundee born artist Sarah Cameron brings to life her salutary tale of sloth, greed and the tragedy of joie de vivre being mastered by slavish daily grind.

In an unnamed country ‘someplace in the glum north o’ the warld’, a vital and handsome young couple of Nordic origins get married and go on a world tour honeymoon. On their return, they open an unwrapped present and find inside the paper and string a French made red velvet chair so fantastical and sumptuous that The Man, Godwin Caractacus, sits in it never to rise again. Like Jack Spratt and his Wife in reverse, he turns from a turquoise eyed handsome devil to a lazy, gluttonous ingrate while his blooming bride, Andrula, turns drudge as the life is sucked from her till she is ‘skinny as a bit o’ string’. Gradually he and his chair become one and pronounced ‘man and chair’.

Behind the scenes of this marital horror, there is Queanie, the ‘inveesible’ child who appears only as a beam of light on Cameron’s face as she speaks her words. It is Queanie in her removed position who finally allows resolution and closure as she moves on in her lighthouse life.

A plain wooden chair sat within a circle of salt is the only prop used by Cameron. She soars through her beautifully enunciated cornucopia of Scots, peppered with French, in a bold and feminine voice. Barefoot and dressed in a black Japanese style pinafored look, Cameron uses techniques from her Jacques Lecoq training, like her precise and compact expression of the firm of solicitors, in this mammoth narration of her luxuriant prose poem. Her outpouring of linguistic riches is delivered with assurance incorporating among it the rhythm of street song, wider literary references and a litany of food starting with Scottish terroir as Godwin’s catalogue of consumption is listed. When it comes to redemption for this hideous man, she steps out to remind the audience directly that she holds authority over the story with the words 'This is My Book!'

The original score for bagpipes (sorry no credit) and string quartet from Paul Clark adds discreet but apposite sounds to this surreal, elaborate ballad of exquisite, scunnersome grotesquery made powerful in Cameron’s mouth and at her hand. A tour de force brawly spoken!

Sarah Cameron’s original book The Red Chair published by Bloomsbury (ISBN 978-1-4742-49348) is available of sale after the show.

24 - 30 August 2015 10am then touring Suitable for ages 14+

Further touring dates
17 – 19 Sep Birmingham REP
Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2EP

24 Sep The Core at Corby Cube
The Corby Cube Parkland Gateway George Street, Corby, Northamptonshire NN17 1QG

12 Nov The Lowry, Salford
Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, Manchester, Greater Manchester M50 3AZ

20 Nov All Stretton, Shropshire