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The Man with the Luggage (tour – St Albans)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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One carries luggage. It has valuable contents. Baggage is carried. It weighs one down. Eugène Ionesco’s 1975 allegory of The Man with the Luggage has been re-devised by writer Lizzie Nunnery and director Oliver Jones for a new touring collaboration between St Albans-based Trestle Unmasked and Jones’ own Blindeye.

A man seeks to return to the village and the wife he left amid the chaos of ethnic conflict more than a decade ago. But boundaries both natural and political as well as regimes have changed in the interim; this is an undiscovered country, one in which there be dragons. Damir’s journey therefore becomes more than just a simple quest allegory. Time and place become immaterial.

Nicholas Tizard is Damir with Nicole Lewis and John Cockerill playing all the other characters. At one point, Damir finds himself in a forest near his former home. An old tree whose trunk bears the mark of many bullets is voiced by Jim Broadbent, one of Trestle’s patrons.

The three performers are all excellent, vocalising the many different people who help – but more often hinder – Damir in his journey. Three screens, a quantity of suitcases and simple costume changes (usually a mere matter of headgear or jackets) take us into a country which archive newsreels and television newscasts have dragged closer to us than is perhaps comfortable.

Anoushka Athique is the set and costume designer with Matt Haskins using light almost as a character in its own right. Music percolates rather than merely decorates the action; Ben Glasstone hints at south-east Europe but also the conflict areas across the Mediterranean. Ionesco’s theatre of absurdities drew on his own sense of displacement. This production suggests the virtue as well as the necessity of travelling light.


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