David Greig (dramaturg), Leila Kalbassi (set design), Alison Brown (costume design), Torben Lars Sylvest (sound design), Alex Soulsby (photography)
French writer Marguerite Duras’ 1984 semi-autobiographical novel The Lover has been exquisitely adapted for the Lyceum stage by Stellar Quines and Scottish Dance Theatre, bringing together for the first time Fleur Darkin and Jemima Levick, two of Scotland’s leading female Artistic Directors in this first UK stage adaptation of the piece.
In 1929 French colonial Saigon, a white schoolgirl girl from a poor background takes a lift from a rich young Chinese man in his black limousine. Although their respective ages, races and positions in society make their relationship lost from the start, that deep, singular once- in- a- lifetime mutual passion ignites and marks the rest of their lives as indelibly as ink on a Chinese scroll.
A subtly lit, stripped back set with a soft painterly feel is the backdrop to this tale of doomed, impassioned love that’s set in Vietnam but holds at its heart profound universal meanings involving the complexities of class and race that Duras regards with a philosophical eye. A black twigged tree that is at once a cherry blossom and a piece of Far Asian calligraphy; a series of white veils that hint at elements of Duras’ writing style but could be aerial silks waiting to be twisted like the characters’ hearts for the rest of their lives, help form the sultry atmosphere of Leila Kalbassi’s set.
The Woman, played by Susan Vidler, is looking back at her past and narrates her story. Her narration continues using an unusual device where her voice is mimed by the characters to indicate her memories as they are acted out. This may be a little disconcerting at first, but in fact the device works, as is shown when the character’s real voice emerges later.
Fluid, boneless tumbling from the dancers chimes with the moody slinky music that has been both beautifully composed and curated by Torben Lars Sylvest to include, among others, songs by French singer Camille and piano preludes by Chopin that add another fine level to this unusual multi- disciplinary production.
At first Amy Hollinshead’s character of The Girl doesn’t come across as waiflike enough, her stylised handkerchief point dress not matching up to the narrator’s description of a threadbare garment, but as the performance progresses, her abandon grows and somehow that dress shreds before the eye while Hollinshead’s liquid limbs take on amazing shapes. Yosuke Kusano (The Man) is louche and languorous as the privileged only son dealing with the dual headed monster of family loyalty and passionate love in the process of which prostituting the woman he loves, bringing shame and gossip to her family. Francesco Ferrari and Kieran Brown glide the stage with style and bravura as brothers Pierre and Paulo.
Physical love plays a central role in Duras’ story so an interpretation that puts physicality at its core is absolutely right.The Lover is a fearless display of erotica; a gorgeous fusion of uninhibited dance and drama that is a visual and sensuous delight.
20 January – 3 February 2018 contains nudity and adult themes