Noise and surveillance, in Britain and Russia, loom large in this fascinating RSC production, in association with Filter, directed by David Farr. It’s a devil of a plot to follow, but the method of inter-cutting fragmented scenes, past and present action, and all done with great technical ingenuity, suggests a new way of writing plays.
The only problem is that the characters themselves are less than compelling, and by the time we have to listen to the interminable paragraphs of recollection from a retired policeman, less than witheringly well played by Patrick Romer, one’s dedication to the cause starts wavering as the one hundred minute mark approaches.
A married couple are separated: Michael (Oliver Dimsdale) is a documentary film maker piecing together police recordings of twenty years ago in Britain, while his wife Kate (Katy Stephens) is stranded in Moscow as a sponsorship agent hopelessly side-tracked by her affair with a charismatic Russian (Ferdy Roberts).
Meanwhile, a snooping sound engineer (Jonjo O’Neill) is keeping a microphone on the domestic routines of his neighbour, and Irina in Russia is searching for a missing friend. Mariah Gale doubles brilliantly as the Hounslow hermit and the Muscovite loyalist.
In one striking scene, Michael stalks his prey in a café in Lewisham while Kate deals with a dodgy nightclub owner (Richard Katz) in Moscow; the same waitress (Christine Entwistle]) serves both parties, slightly adjusting her posture and demeanour from one side of the stage to the other.
The Filter style of visible technology, superb and slightly sci-fi design by Jon Bausor – a small forest of pop-up tubes are eventually topped with practical light bulbs – and aggressively mood-setting lighting by Jon Clark, all create an unusual ambience of uncertainty and informality. The whole show, in fact, becomes a metaphor for the noise filling Kate’s head, and Katy Stephens does very well to bear this burden with such grace and good spirit from start to finish.