Three theatre companies, four directors (two doubling as performers), six actors and five senses come together to tell Glyn Cannon’s intertwining stories. Sometimes both share the stage at once. Often we’re invited to use unexpected combinations of senses to follow the story. It’s told, for example, simultaneously in speech and eloquent sign language, on a soundtrack and visually, typed on the screen that serves as backdrop.
The companies collaborating on this pioneering performance are renowned for physicality, writing and using the skills of disabled performers. So this piece, which aims to explore how much we really see into each other, focuses in one tale on Maria (Karina Jones), a stunning sexy blonde, who happens to be blind, and Edward (Scott Graham), her shy new date, who’s quite unable to ‘see’ what she wants from him - unlike the adolescent Greg (David Sands), who attends to her practical needs, and gets to masturbate in front of her - and the horrified Edward - in return.
In the other, equally sexy Shona (Jo McInnes) comes to terms with how the men in her life see her – and how she sees herself. The catalyst is a portrait of Shona so explicit that her partner Dan (Steven Hoggett), who revels in her sexuality in the bedroom, is aghast when it's displayed for all to see – and to her discomfiture, Gaetano, the artist, (Mat Fraser) also reveals his sexuality in his work.
Both audience and cast include those who make four senses do the work of five. The visually-impaired Jones as Maria is simply stunning to watch - it’s perhaps ironic that it’s hard to take your eyes off her. She provides one of the play’s most breathtakingly theatrical moments, when she slips off her bathrobe and gently nudges the awkward Edward into describing the beauty of her naked body. It’s important that only Edward can see her - we, the audience, depend on his new-found eloquence to help us ‘see’ her.
This contrasts nicely with the comically shocking moment when Gaetano unveils that explicit portrait, leaving nothing to the imagination. It’s also a bleak moment of self-realisation for Shona, as it reveals the precariousness of her relationship with the prosaic Dan.
All the performances are convincing, with McInnes' edgy Shona also standing out. The synthesis of performance styles against Julian Crouch’s extraordinary set in cartoon rooms created and erased before our eyes to Nick Powell’s exciting score makes for an exhilarating evening, beautifully orchestrated by its four directors.
- Judi Herman (reviewed at the Soho Theatre)