OUT OF THIS WORLD
Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Tuesday 25th April, 2017
Mark Murphy’s latest piece for V-Tol pulls out all the stops in terms of theatricality – in fact, when it begins, I feel bombarded and disoriented by the barrage of light and sound, the tirade of disjointed lines of dialogue and all the rushing around rearranging the chairs. This is purely intentional of course, but it takes me a while to take the piece in other than in via its form. But gradually, the content emerges, explaining the choices made for the means of presentation.
We gather that our protagonist Ellen (Sarah Swire) is a famous musician, five weeks married to Anthony (Scott Hoatson) but something is very, very wrong – if the doctor and nurse and the clinical setting are anything to go by. The fragmented nature of the action – complete with surreal moments – suggest that everything is happening in Ellen’s mind. She even steps forward to break the fourth wall and tell us this. Even we are projections in her story.
I warm to Ellen as she goes through her own rabbit-hole of a nightmare, complete with Lewis Carroll-esque exchanges with officious receptionists. Sequences repeat and distort as we piece together what happened to Ellen and Anthony. It culminates in the show’s most powerful scene, when all the stage technology takes a backseat, and husband and wife say their final farewell. It’s heartbreaking.
And so, what begins as a dazzling, confusing circus of video, music, and high-wire flying, becomes a beautiful, sometimes harrowing, sometimes touching, sometimes funny, sometimes absurd, love story. A tale of loss and grief – and survival.
Yet if it is all in Ellen’s comatose mind, I can’t grasp why there’s a scene in which she is not present: the doctor explaining to her brother-in-law about the car accident that shatters their lives. Perhaps she could have floated overhead, like an eavesdropping Peter Pan, in an out-of-body experience…
Murphy certainly puts us through it, browbeating us with theatrical assault and then engaging us through the piecemeal resolution of what the hell is going on, and then hitting us right in the feels. A remarkable piece that rewards those who have the patience to get through the initial ambush on the senses. Marvellous. It’s not often a show’s title is its own review.