Two cheers for Chair, Edward Bond’s tense, grim parable of an urban wasteland which concludes the trilogy of plays directed by Bond and Sean Holmes in the Lyric’s all-white studio space.
Chair was first heard on radio 12 years ago and revised for the stage a few years later. It is composed in five stark scenes, or “pictures,” which feature an anxious woman, Alice (Tanya Moodie), and a childish 26 year-old man, Billy (Timothy O'Hara), isolated in a second floor apartment above a scene of repression at a bus stop.
Looking from a window, Alice sees a soldier (Nicholas Gleaves) and a subjugated woman (Sandra Voe) whom she might or might not recognise; they are not allowed to look at prisoners. Billy has never left the room he has covered with his primitive, colourful, nursery school drawings.
After prompting from Billy, however, Alice takes the prisoner a chair, which is violated in a development that results in Alice and Billy being visited in the fourth “picture” by a stern welfare officer (Naomi Frederick) who issues a non-custodial supervision order with a further promise of re-settling Alice “nearer the department.”
This in turn leads to a disturbing and lyrical finale, the extinction of all reasonable civil behaviour, and of life itself, in a handful of dust. The last administration, we learn, was slipshod over details of how, and where, we lived. That’s all changed in 2077.
“We do not belong here anymore and have no future,” says Bond in the introduction to these plays, which are stark and gloomy, but not portentous. They are puzzles, theories almost, about how we might speak and behave in a time when communication is impossible and social intercourse forbidden.
For that reason, they are compelling and, although the acting of Alice and Billy might be more convinced and convincing, more intense, Bond’s own production does have an awesome clarity about it which is just as theatrical, in its own way, as the more obvious excesses of Three Kingdoms playing on the Lyric’s main stage.