Crave and Illusions, Traverse Theatre, Review
Actors’ Touring Company (ATC) is committed to producing quality international contemporary theatre, using “…the most innovative scripts from abroad, often commissioning its own translations and creating work collaboratively with artists from the UK and overseas.”
This repertoire performance of two plays with four actors involves direct speaking to the audience by the cast, but each in quite a different way. First performed in 1998 by Paines Plough at the Traverse, the late Sarah Kane’s Crave remains radical. To the sound of louder and louder ticking, like an insomniac’s clock, the four actors appear in barefoot vulnerability dressed in pyjamas. The only props in the stark stage are a glass of water and box of tissues. Four small anglepoise lamps shine up at the cast: red for female; black for male.
A series of seemingly unrelated staccato statements are shot out at the audience in turn from each character holding attention from the word ‘go’. Death, sex, secrets, fear, desire, despair, love, confusion all tumble out in a gripping randomness that is full of interconnections; a recognisable stream of consciousness that is the human condition.
There is one particularly long monologue from character A that is delivered intensely and seemingly without breath by Jack Tarlton, during which there is subtle and barely perceptible turning of other three on stage.
This is a stark and challenging piece of intense theatre that is both strange and utterly recognizable as the words are brought to life by this solid, commanding cast. It saw the professional stage debut of Rona Morison who played character C with impressive strength that will surely augur well for her.
In director, Ramin Gray’s notes, he speaks of Siberian writer Ivan Viripaev leading us “...into a hall of mirrors…” and indeed as we step in to a new reversed version of Traverse One, the senses are already discombobulated. The audience is seated on stage under bright light, where one immediately gets a sense of actors’ exposure when on stage. The quartet cast then takes their seats facing the audience as if about to take part in an informal meeting.
Derbhie Crotty starts speaking directly as the First Woman, her voice slightly trembling with the emotion of the subject: the dying words of a loving husband to his wife. But as the other narratives take their twists and turns, we learn that nothing is what it seems; that the lives of this old couple and their best friends are full of lies and contradictions; that the eternal triangle is a vital part of their life. We learn how each is disabused as details unfold about requited and unrequited love and the merits of each.
This is a funny and affecting play about trying to make sense of the absurdities of life and of the acceptance that nothing is whole, just a series of episodes that we try to place under a construct of our own making. It was performed with a natural delivery, in particular the intent listening by Jack Tarlton (first man) to the other monologues. The very human search for ‘permanence in shifting universe’ was beautifully and convincingly performed by all four cast members: a credit to themselves as well as to casting director, Jim Arnold.
Illusions is Viripaev’s first work to be staged in the UK.