Both celebrated actors in Brazil, Guilherme Leme teams up with co-director Vera Holtz in this deft adaptation of Albert Camus’s existentialist novel L’Etranger by Morten Kirkskov.
It involved both of them in two years of in depth research, and even collaboration with a philosopher, to enter the mind of one of the most relevant and humanitarian writers of the 20th century in order to realize this production.
The result is an exquisite example of theatrical restraint and economy necessary to reflect the passive psychology of the anti-hero Meursault as he narrates his story; there is the death of his mother and a sexual encounter with an old acquaintance, but it is his misguided involvement with a neighbour's dispute with a girlfriend, resulting in the needless murder of an Arab man, which leads to his Kafka-esque trial and the inevitable prospect of his own execution.
With ingenious use of stark scenography, a simple black square mat and swivel chair provides spatial flexibility creating both interior and exterior scenes. However it is the brilliant lighting concepts by designer Maneco Quindere combined with a smokey haze that not only creates the stifling ambience of Algerian heat (in an uncharacteristically stifling Edinburgh), but also adds to the encroaching sense of claustrophobic incarceration as the tension mounts throughout Meursault’s self-inflicted demise.
Leme’s superb stagecraft enables our frustration with Meursault’s apparent emotional ineptitude turn into a gradual understanding as we witness the ill-fated character’s quest for truth stripped of hypocrisy and expectation to conform to what Camus would regard as societies absurdist values.
In the author’s own words “...the hero of the book is condemned because he doesn’t play the game. In this sense he is a stranger to society in which he lives....”
Summerhall is indeed fortunate to be presenting this outstanding realization from the page to the stage, a gem that should not be missed in one of the most interesting new venues in Edinburgh.
Show times: til 25th
Tickets: £12 (£10)