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Middletown

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow
Four stars

“Looking in people’s windows,” says the after-hours Cop in Will Eno’s 2010 play, “makes you feel lonely.” This sense of loneliness slowly but surely permeates throughout Matthew Lenton’s production, performed by final year BA Acting students from the RCS. It’s there in the library, a seat of learning where McCallister Selva’s new-in-town Mary forms a fly-by-night connection with Angus Taylor’s John Dodge. It’s there too in the park, where Keiran Duncan’s Cop isn’t quite so reflective when he encounters Calvin Noble’s Craig and Eimear Fearon’s Librarian together on a park bench. And it’s there finally in the hospital, where everyday matters of life and death co-exist in the same corridor. And all the while behind the curtained windows of Julia Quante’s two-tiered set, people live in the shadows as they imagine the worst of the world outside.

Lenton navigates his cast of eleven through the play’s woozy twilight zone small town in limbo that seems to be a neighbourhood somewhere between Milk Wood and Twin Peaks. There’s a sense that everybody’s minding everybody else’s business, with the ensemble gathering around the play’s central shared moments as if overseeing an asylum. And when the entire company wave goodbye as the curtain slowly falls while the plaintive piano patterns of Meirian Hall-Jones’ score sounds them out, the audience too become complicit in the watching.

There are some lovely performances here, with Selva and Taylor bringing an understated ennui to Mary and John as their struggles to connect misfire. Noble lends a poignancy to Craig as he forever listens in on things without ever truly being a part of them. What emerges from the mire of all these criss-crossing lives is a map, not just of life and death, but of all the other accidents, emergencies and every other little thing besides that gets forgotten as everybody stays safe in their own bubble. Somehow, though, Eno suggests some kind of future, and hope for another beyond.

The Herald, November 1st 2019

Ends


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