Monday 8 August 2016

EIF 2016 – Vanishing Point's The Destroyed Room, or, How Many Ways Can We Alienate Dr Pollard?

It is never a good sign, in my experience, when a play begins with an explanation from the director (I assume) as to what the play is about. If the work can't speak for itself then you need to go back and work on it some more. The Destroyed Room by Vanishing Point is not an exception. This show and I thus started off on the wrong foot, and things went downhill from there.

It features three unnamed people (two women (Elicia Daly and Pauline Goldsmith) and a man (Barnaby Power)), in a room, talking mostly about why we do, or don't, watch videos of questionable taste on the internet (like ISIS executions, or immigrants drowning in the Mediterranean). The performances are solid, but are undone by the work. Although as time goes on we learn one or two things about these people (whether they have children, recovering alcoholic) we never learned enough, at least as far as I was concerned, to care about any of them, or to be convinced as to why I should be interested in their opinions on the questions posed. More seriously, the show never convinced me as to why these three people were stuck in the room in the first place, why they were being filmed by two onstage cameramen, and why they didn't just leave if they weren't enjoying the discussion. This is compounded by the fact that after about an hour of this frankly rather aimless and uninvolving talk they then do all decide to leave. There follows an equally interminable. though fortunately far shorter, coda beginning with projected film of a Mediterranean migrant rescue video, followed by some light damage being inflicted on the room (the show even flunks the destruction element) and finally a man in a radiation suit wandering in and examining the place.

If you don't get to much new theatre you might be deceived into thinking this show is technically innovative. It isn't. Onstage filming is becoming a real curse. It dangerously splits one's attention between the live performers and the action on screen without corresponding gain – the best that can be said for it here is that at least the performers unlike in the recent Kings of War at the Barbican do actually stay onstage. I saw a room filled with more water but in a similar manner, for similar dramatic reasons, in the much more powerful Birdland at the Royal Court. Countless theatre shows at the Festival have proceeded on the principle that a well-crafted script is not necessary for great theatre, and this, like nearly all of its predecessors, only serves to prove the opposite. Finally, also like many an International Festival Theatre show passim, the show doesn't seem to know how to stop.

This is definitely one to avoid, and does not make me optimistic for the other half of their double bill (Interiors) which I see tomorrow afternoon.

No comments:

Post a Comment