Friday, April 27, 2007

REVIEW: Attempts on Her Life (Project Cube, Dublin)

Ten years after it first hit the British stage, Martin's Crimp's scrapbook of a drama is getting a revival, not only at the National Theatre in London, but also in Rough Magic's production at Project.

The London version comes completely with a with a snazzy web site, full of blogs and video clips and other self-conscious attempts to make sure everybody notices just how, like, relevant the playwright's take on refugees, violence, terrorism and social disintegration remains.

Rough Magic's production, directed by Tom Creed, doesn't seem nearly so certain. Indeed, the whole endeavour has a nagging lack of conviction, from the cramped stage and timorous dancing, to the uncertain line readings, and the frankly daft costumes in lurid colours.

The piece is written in 17 shortish scenes, each helpfully advertised via electronic signage. Through these we gather scraps about a mysterious off-stage character. Sometimes this woman is called Anne, sometimes Anouska. Sometimes we learn about her through two characters pitching a movie, sometimes through a rock song, an answering machine message, or a snippet from an interrogation. In one scene, which takes the form of a foreign language ad, it seems this Anne is not a woman all, but a nice car.

The feel is of a devised piece, like something you might imagine had been conjured up by Forced Entertainment with an eye to offering the actors a chance to show off those unexpected skills, like drumming and playing electric guitar. But Crimp's drive here is more towards creating a sense of fragmented characters, jostling surfaces incapable of acting or feeling without reference to a tabloid cliché or a scene from a movie.

The mistake in this production is to assume that in order to portray Crimp's post-everything cyphers the performers themselves need to disengage and not get bogged down in creating characters. Quite the opposite is true. No amount snappy lighting and music (and this production has both) can make a show appear crisp and decisive if the flesh and blood work is a little bit fuzzy.

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