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When darkness descends

PUBLISHED: 16:30 02 July 2008 | UPDATED: 17:18 16 August 2010

The Royal Court Theatre, Relocated 2008
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
Director Anthony Neilson
Designer Miriam Buether
Sound Designer Nick Powell
Cast:
Frances Grey
Phil McKee
Stuart McQuarrie
Katie Novak
Jan Pearson
Nicola Walker
Pictured:

The Royal Court Theatre, Relocated 2008 Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Director Anthony Neilson Designer Miriam Buether Sound Designer Nick Powell Cast: Frances Grey Phil McKee Stuart McQuarrie Katie Novak Jan Pearson Nicola Walker Pictured:

© Johan Persson

ANYONE who has pored over the lurid reports of the last moments of Holly and Jessica, the two children murdered by Ian Huntley,

ANYONE who has pored over the lurid reports of the last moments of Holly and Jessica, the two children murdered by Ian Huntley, and has been taken aback by the antics in Josef Fritzl's 'House Of Horrors' will be spellbound by Relocated at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs.

Certainly there is much to exercise the darker recesses of the mind. The star of the show is the atmospheric set by Miriam Buether. She has managed to transform the mundane attic of the Royal Court into a black cavern, at once spacious enough to house a flat in suburbia, or a cottage in Cambridgeshire, but also a suffocating cell in Austria or the inside of a psychopath's skull.

This is achieved without any change in the physical environment, but simply with lighting and a heavy gauze which blocks out the view from the auditorium, and a simple change of basic furniture. Coupled with shuttered windows and an unnerving total blackout drenched in disembodied voices, people in the audience giggled nervously or stumbled out to escape from the horrors to come. Jan Pearson (as Connie Johnson - a character representing Maxine Carr) lies lifeless on the floor with her vacuum cleaner beside her and is resurrected to be told by her 'controller' that "It's time to move on".

She is being relocated to a safe house where she will be a school auxiliary, but the friendly neighbour informs her, over tea and cake, that the last teacher left in a hurry without taking her things with her...who can this be?

The plot twists and turns, as Connie tries to find out what has happened to her predecessor and meets the weird school caretaker who knows more than he is willing to divulge.

Another character, Molly, is a child who has disappeared and body parts are all that is left to indicate what might have happened to her. There is a tense scene where, despite their barren relationship Huntley (Phil McKee) fantasises about them having children and Maxine is totally freaked out as he insists they are upstairs in the bedroom, and incredibly the set then becomes the third character in the scene dripping incriminating drops of blood on his head. It is quite impossible to make logical sense of any of this, but the acting is so compelling and the setting so disturbingly evocative of all the mental and physical situations that Anthony Neilson has penned and directed, that disbelief is suspended. "Everything is lost" complains one of the characters, and certainly the people represented here have completely lost the plot of their lives. We are compelled to experience their dislocation and torment, so that when Josef Fritzl appears with a deckchair and Bermuda shorts, to mentally assault his offspring and wifelet, we are conditioned to accept this as normality. Four weeks are all it took to create the script and allow the actors and designer to perfect this vision of Hades, so plaudits are due to the entire company for their work. If there is an Oscar for set design Miriam Buether will run away with it, sheer imagination, rather than money has created this theatrical wonder.

Relocated is at the Royal Court Jerwood in Sloane Square until July 5. Tickets are from £10 to £15 and are available on 020 7565 5000.


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