The magic of this show is that it’s description – an intercut monologue between one woman in an office who may actually be having a brain haemorrhage and a soldier looking through the lens of a sniper rifle who may just be playing a videogame – is really clear and simple and isn’t a lie at all. But that the experience of the thing is completely inarticulable [which makes this a fucking hard thing to write about but I’ll press on obliviously].
These two monologues play out by actors who are returning and unpacking from a holiday in a metrochic apartment in a metrochic world from nowhere. They simultaneously are the people whose monologues they are speaking and are not. The dislocation is at once absorbing and chilling.
People often talk about how you show don’t tell – I wonder whether this is why the reviews have been so insipid and trite and generally fucking dumb – but this show tells, tells, tells, never showing, but it grows out of itself and clogs up your mind. You are never sure where you are supposed to be, what you are supposed to think. Careful attention rewards you with images that make your eyes pop and ideas that seem to unlock the thing but only so far, only until it veers off in another direction entirely and you find yourself on cracking ice.
Which would be to suggest that this was some sort of mythic, metaphoric experience. But I think what’s powerful about it – and different in form to Anyone’s Guess which I saw the day before and even Kane’s work, to which it bears interesting comparison – is that Thorpe’s world is working towards photorealistic narration. The absurdity is in the direction and occasionally in the world but there is never a loose image, we are never supposed to disbelieve.
There is a moment where the sniper describes the way that the nervous system of humanity has accreted extra layers, so that information takes longer to pass through it and though it still will get through it takes longer to respond. The show for me is a re-re-reiteration of this experience: there’s too much information, going too quickly, from and to too many places, and even if that isn’t true, even if we can argue about whether this is good or bad, it feels terrifying and disorienting; it feels like time and space are collapsing and ubiquitous screens are as bad at telling us about the other side of the world as trying to turn the contrast and brightness up on a blurred out image: it doesn’t get clearer, just brighter.
All of which is a way of saying that I fucking loved this play. I think it’s exactly the sort of response we need right now: complicated, poignant, difficult, intensely theatrical, fucking beautifully written and performed and directed. Short! It was an hour long! David Hare can go sit in a bin and whine about how it’s not a real play for three hours, while Chris and Caryl get bevved and high five in the bar when they are out at 3.30 after their matinees.