The REP, Birmingham, Tuesday 16th September, 2014
As we are let into the Studio space at the REP, we are warned that we will spend an hour in pitch darkness. There will be no interval…
These three monologues written by Waiting For Godot playwright Samuel Beckett are presented back-to-back, with brief intervals of blackout and unsettling sounds. As a whole, the experience works very well – as the sum of its parts. The effect is cumulative.
A disembodied mouth is all we can see. Think opening titles to the Rocky Horror Picture Show but very far away. Think ‘howling screamer’ from Harry Potter. It’s a stream of consciousness piece as the thoughts and fears of a woman pour out of this mouth. Fast-talking, the voice has dynamics, punctuating certain recurring words with a shout. It’s dizzying stuff. We listen for meaning, trying to grasp this woman’s situation as thoughts and phrases collide. She is clearly agitated, upset and afraid but what hope do we have of understanding the mind of another?
A ghostly woman in long dress paces in an oblong of light. Her pale face and white clothing give her an eerie appearance. There is something of the grave about her. As she paces she interacts with the mother she cares for/used to care for – again the exact nature of the situation is unclear. The repetitions obfuscate rather than clarify. But this is a woman, trapped, in a rut and in despair. Haunted and haunting.
A woman in black (not that woman in black but not dissimilar) sits in a rocking chair. All we can see: her white hands on the arms of the chair and her sidelit face as it comes in and out of the light – just as the meaning in and out of our grasp. The voice is soft, the repetitions almost rhythmical; it is strangely soothing – in a disturbing kind of way – but here is another woman caught in a situation about which she obsesses. A rocking chair gives you something to do but gets you nowhere.
Directed by Walter Asmus, solo performer Lisa Dwan is astonishing in the three very different pieces. What is Beckett saying though? For me, the evening is about the isolation of human existence, how we are all caught up in our own ruts and obsessions, our own circular thinking. We are alone in the dark with our thoughts on a loop.
Bleak but compelling.