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The Lover

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars


From it's opening piano notes to its last declaration of undying love, something very fragile lies at the heart of this impressionistic staging of two novels by French writer Marguerite Duras. Adapted and co-directed by choreographer Fleur Darkin and Stellar Quines theatre company director Jemima Levick, the pair look to both the title book and its reimagining as The North China Lover for their slow-burning re-telling of Duras' quasi-autobiographical story. This involves a teenage girl's erotic awakening as she embarks on an affair with a wealthy Chinese man in an already sultry colonialist Indo-China.

The story is ostensibly told by Susan Vidler's nameless older Woman, whose fractured monologue over the performance's ninety-minute duration reflects on one of the key moments that defined her life. As she watches over her own past, that moment is brought to life by a quartet of dancers led by Amy Hollinshead as the Woman's younger self. All words spoken between Hollinshead’s Girl, Yosuke Kusano's Man and the Girl's brothers and poverty-stricken mother are heard recorded in a woman's voice acting out each part as they lip-synch along. All, that is, except the final ones.

Darkin and Levick’s co-production between the Lyceum, Stellar Quines and the Darkin-led Scottish Dance Theatre makes for a delicious concoction that goes beyond words to create something infinitely more sensual. As Hollinshead's Girl takes the leap to create her own story beyond playing a bit-part in others, her getting of wisdom is key to this. This is heightened by the gossamer-light landscape of Leila Kalbassi's set and Emma Jones' lighting.

Pulsed by Torben Lars Sylvest's languid musical mash-up of chic fourth world rhythms and avant-cabaret nouveau chansons, what emerges is an ennui-laden living collage of sound and vision, where past, present and possible futures converge as one.

The Herald, January 29th 2018

ends

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