Pinter meets Ionesco in this absorbing, disturbing, darkly comic tale of fear, anxiety and manipulation. In ten short scenes we witness the progress of a friendship that is created and developed over the period of one month which for one couple brings salvation and for the other demoralisation and destruction.
The UK premiere of Spanish dramatist Juan Mayorga's latest play, in a translation by David Johnston, lives up to his reputation as a challenging dramatist with a heightened awareness of the theatrical audience relationship, which in this production is aided by the creative vision of Matthew Walker & Hannah Clark. Their living, breathing set design, involving the latest in media projection, allows us not only to be transported to the living rooms and workplaces of the two couples but the park outside and the 'Nocturnal' room at the local zoo.
The play opens with two men meeting in a café; it transpires that they both live in the same block of flats and pass each other on the stairs with a cursory “Morning”, as one leaves for work and the other returns from a night shift, only now one of them wants to pursue the relationship further for his own ends.
Quoting Section 3754 – The Immigration Act the short man (all four characters remain nameless throughout) tells the tall man that he believes he is an illegal and so could be deported, but when asked what he wants, or is going to do, simply replies, “I don't know yet. Honestly, I don't”. And therein lies the tension of this piece, which like a mystery thriller, builds to a final thought-provoking twist.
This study of Homo Sapiens Urbanaus or 'city dweller' is deftly directed by Lyndsey Turner who heightens the slightly surreal situations by allowing her characters to maintain an edginess that keeps the audience guessing not only what they are thinking and who they really are, but about their plans and motivations. All are obsessive in some way, the short man with mending things, his wife with insomnia, the tall man with work, walking and Greek myths and his wife with reading anything she can find. Paul Hunter and Justin Salinger spark well off each other whilst Amanda Lawrence gives a beautifully controlled, yet deeply disturbing performance, as the short woman who ultimately wins the day.