The Book of Disquiet is translated from the original Portuguese and reimagined by Mark O'Thomas for the Blue Elephant. A staging of the memoirs of Bernardo Soares, a Lisbon bookkeeper, the 'author' is actually but one of the numerous heteronyms adopted by 20th century poet and writer Fernando Pessoa.
A promenade performance, we are invited to rove around the smoke-filled space, approaching the actors from what we feel to be the most appropriate angle. More ambitiously, a member of the audience is also invited to join the cast for the duration of the show, taking on the role of colleague Geoff - dragged in accusatory fashion through a number of scenes by other cast members. An intriguing concept, but one which did not feel quite built out enough.
Powerless in a large accountancy firm, the four-strong cast (five if you include Geoff) resort to blaming each other for their failings in a splintered examination of their own existences and their mundane working lives.
All four of the cast give compelling performances, with the solo work particularly strong. Gareth Murphy’s wholly unexpected strip to garters and suspender belt and Emily Wallis' frantic presentation deserving of special mention.
The performance is poetically presented, Sara Lewerth gymnastically crosses the space; moments around the water cooler bask in their own inner pool of light; the creation of a sunny holiday get away spot is a hastily chalk-scrawled palm tree on one of the theatre's black walls, but for all of this production's innovative approaches to staging, it is access to the overarching narrative which is lacking.
Director Nicholai La Barrie ambitiously explores what can be achieved in a black box space with little more than tables, chairs and pools of light. And, of course, the cast who support the work commendably.