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The Salon Project

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
If you think the modern world is killing the art of conversation,
Stewart Laing's exquisitely constructed reimagining of nineteenth
century salons for a post-modern age is a perfect night out for closet
intellectuals in need of stimulation. By taking over the whole of the
Traverse and putting the audience at the heart of the action, Laing and
his huge team for Untitled Productions are bringing back social
networking in the old-fashioned way.

It begins back-stage, with the audience attended to by a coterie of
dressers, who kit us out in formal garb that improves the posture and
inspires all manner of fancy thoughts. Once we step inside a mocked-up
drawing room complete with chandeliers, our own costume drama is
enlivened by a rolling programme of entertainments. On the first night,
these included blindfolded performance artist Donna Rutherford mashing
up some 78RPM vinyl with three wind-up gramophones, a stripped-bare
tableau vivant with each model clutching some modern-day device to keep
them connected with the here and now, and a live pianist under-scoring
the affair with increasing intensity. Artist Rose English and Laing
pepper the evening with conversational interludes, while guest speakers
talk of designing imaginary tomorrows.

In what might well be a tribute to recently deceased Apple pioneer
Steve Jobs, Laing and co juxtapose past, present and future in what is
essentially an extended parlour game in which cleverness is encouraged.
Only at the end of the evening are the pleasantries shattered as a film
is shown of what looks like a symbolic murder of thought itself. As an
apocalyptic thunder shakes the room's foundations, it only sounds scary
until you realise it's all created with computers.

The Herald, October 12th 2011

ends

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