As feminist critic and filmmaker Laura Mulvey has pointed out, films which put us in the shoes of voyeuristic protagonists, such as Hitchcock’s Rear Window or Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, disturb us because they make our own voyeurism shockingly apparent to ourselves. The same is done for theatre in this co-production between Vanishing Point and Napoli Teatro Festival Italia.
The audience is invited to peer through the window of a dining room as seven inhabitants of some Arctic village engage in a dinner party. Unable to hear their dialogue, we’re guided through the evening’s events by an omniscient narrator (Elicia Daly), whose mysterious, mournful voiceover gives us the minimum we need to know about the characters, from their deepest feelings and desires to their eventual fates.
Tense and deeply affecting, highlighting the all too transient nature of life.
Helped in no small part by Kai Fischer’s set and lighting and Alaisdair Macrae’s evocative music and barren soundscape, director Matthew Lenton has crafted something like an Edward Hopper painting brought to theatrical life. Superbly acted all-round, with a standout performance from Daly, the resulting atmosphere is tense and deeply affecting, highlighting the all too transient nature of life. But if the emotions are sated, the intellect feels somewhat teased. No doubt a result of the dialogue-less drama springing more from the difficulty of creating intercultural theatre than from a desire to say something about modern voyeurism, the play ultimately feels like it lacks insight. The closest we get to that is near the end, when the narrator tells us, with a tone of significance: “Don’t judge them. They’re good people. They can’t help wanting things.” Yeah. Okay. Of course. But we know this, and the vague triteness of the message is only accentuated by the voyeurism theme, especially in the context of a society increasingly obsessed with looking at itself through surveillance, reality TV and web-cams.
Travese Theatre , Edinburgh, until Sat 28 Mar,