Friday, August 21, 2009

Edinburgh: If That's All There Is

A red stain blooms like a rose on Daniel’s shirtfront. He has just been shot. His wailing wife stands beside him, dressed in bridal white. It is their wedding day – and this, his shooting, is – probably - just a dream, the product of an anxious mind.

Reality and the imagined world walk hand in hand in this new piece by Inspector Sands, the company behind Hysteria. Inspired by the Peggy Lee song from which it takes its title, If That’s All There Is concerns an engaged couple, Daniel and Frances, who are full of fear and anxiety about their impending wedding day and, presumably, their lives together after they emerge from the church in a shower of confetti.

Worried about his fiancee’s behaviour, Daniel – who is the kind of man who makes graphs of his guests’ ages and romantic status in order to decide where to seat them at the reception – consults a psychiatrist on her behalf. To be fair Frances’ behaviour is a little odd. She has taken to sniffing just-chopped onions and forcing herself to cry; at work she devours hunks of white-iced wedding cake, cramming it into her mouth like a starved woman. She has momentary urges to fling small children into rivers or to rub her face into a passing man’s quivering belly fat. Both Daniel and Frances seem like they could use a little help, they are forever teetering on the edge and the smallest knock could send them over. Even the psychiatrist offers them no rock to cling to, for she seems as unsteady as them.

Consistently physically inventive and frequently very funny, the piece offers a neat commentary on the drive for perfection that characterises so many different aspects of society, one’s wedding day being the pinnacle of this: the sense that life will be somehow less satisfying, less fulfilling, just less if you don’t match the bridesmaids’ flowers to the table linen or have the right kind of cake or own some tasteful suede cushions from Heals on your sofa.

Lucinka Eisler and Ben Lewis are well matched as the increasingly flaky and fragile couple, seemingly feeding from one another’s neuroses, while Giulia Innocenti’s comic timing is excellent. Simply by the shedding of her shirt, she switches from a dismissive middle aged shrink to a taciturn work experience girl at the market research company where Frances works. As the latter she reads from an unending ‘lifestyle’ questionnaire, slicing up the human condition into quantifiable chunks ("on a scale of one to ten how do you feel about...")

While there’s a lot to enjoy and appreciate here there’s also the sense that, if you were to strip away the creative presentation and the visual energy of the piece, what’s left would struggle to stand on its own; there's a whole lot of layers of wrapping and ribbon for a gift you already have.

Reviewed for musicOMH.

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