Theatre review: Interiors; The Destroyed Room

Interiors, appearing at The Lyceum Theatre Picture: Toby Williams
Interiors, appearing at The Lyceum Theatre Picture: Toby Williams
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Inside the room, there’s light, warmth, all the fun, sorrow and absurdity of human beings gathering for a midwinter dinner; we see them, we guess what they’re saying, but we never hear their voices.

Star Rating : Interiors ****

The Destroyed Room at the Lyceum Picture: Toby Williams

The Destroyed Room at the Lyceum Picture: Toby Williams

The Destroyed Room ****

Venue: Lyceum Theatre

Outside, there’s intense cold, dark, and danger; so much so that the guests arrive carrying rifles or hand-guns. And also outside, there’s a watcher, at first only heard, as she talks with a certain distant compassion and amusement about the people inside; a ghost who can never again enter the house, but who knows all there is to know about the past and future of those inside.

This is the central premise of the Glasgow-based company Vanishing Point’s exquisite 2009 show Interiors, inspired by a play by Maeterlinck, but conjured by director Matthew Lenton and his superb team – a seven-strong international cast, Pamela Carter on text, Kai Fischer on light and design, Alasdair Macrae on music and sound, and Finn Ross on the powerful video images that frame the action – into a beautiful parable about how we continue with the small pleasures, silly jokes and petty agonies of everyday life despite the certainty of death, and against the backdrop of a chilly and implacable eternity.

At a festival where the sheer fragility and preciousness of our brief life on earth is already emerging as a major theme, Lenton’s beautiful show-cum-installation marks out that territory with a masterly, heartbreaking sureness of touch. His cast – always known in Interiors by their own first names – deliver a quietly magnificent series of performances, intensely comic, profoundly sad, and beautifully detailed. And for this year’s Festival, this masterpiece of Lenton’s is paired with Vanishing Point’s most recent work, The Destroyed Room, an edgily contemporary piece in which three middle-class British characters hold a wine-fuelled, part-improvised discussion on their response to the relentless parade of global suffering they see on their television and smart-phone screens; until their debate falls apart in hurt and disarray, and the room itself begins to break down, in a fabulously eloquent visual metaphor. The Destroyed Room is an easier show to dislike than Interiors, as actors Pauline Goldsmith, Barnaby Power and Elicia Daly prod and niggle at each other’s weak points.

Yet it’s also a brave encounter with one of the key experiences of our time, in this increasingly fragile western world; and a fascinating, intensely theatrical development of that key image first explored by Lenton back in 2009, of a comfortable space surrounded by a darkness that can never be defeated, and only briefly held at bay.

Today, 1:30pm and 8pm

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