Viola Room; View from the Bridge – review

These are the two pillars of British theatre: the aesthetic freewheeling, and the social urgency. Despite the devastation of the lockdown, things don’t look too bad.

It was time for Punchdrunk to take a new turn – and it has. Viola’s room This is an event for the immersion magicians, led by artistic director Felix Barrett. Not only that, after the greatness of the The Burnt City, this is an incredibly intimate show. More fundamentally, the audience is not asked to follow performers independently, deriving a story from fragments of action, but is guided to experience the same series of events. Everyone should share one version. Actually, it’s not that simple.

Entering a canvas labyrinth in small groups, viewers are asked to follow the light. Indeed Viola’s room consists of different lighting: the amazing lighting by Simon Wilkinson that leads through the design of Casey Jay Andrews proves that light is not one thing. It could be a soft cloud overhead from cotton-wool puff balls or the bright lathe through a door. It can suggest personality – scatter red fairy bulbs around a girl’s looking glass. It can vaguely carve out new places: a mini-palace is created in an alcove when a golden glow draws out a series of casements and gives a glimpse of shadowy waltz couples.

The idea of ​​led light is not simple. The religious words are turned upside down during this dance-with-the-devil promenade, and in a first for Punchdrunk led by the eye, the audience is given an audio guide about the significance of what they see as they walk (and in case only.crawl). Through headphones, they hear Gareth Fry’s haunting soundtrack, which includes music by Massive Attack and Tori Amos, and Daisy Johnson’s take on Barry Pain’s gothic tale, The Moon-Slave. Heavier on adjectival expression than plot, this episode involves a last-minute escape from the wedding and nods to Hans Christian Andersen’s terrifying The Red Shoes: pink ballet slippers appear throughout the journey, framed like installations or hanging from a tree shoe

Whispering is currently filling the theater: to be heard i Bluesin Jamie Lloyd’s Romeo and Julietin Max Webster’s Macbeth. In Helena Bonham Carter’s exuberant narration the cozy bedtime edge is being taken away by a slight slur in her voice, and her knowledge. Which is as it should be. Although often exquisite, sometimes seemingly folkloric, Viola’s room most sophisticated in its paradoxes. His story is about compulsion and loss of control, but this is the show where Punchdrunk clearly has control over his own audience.

View from the Bridge I think Arthur Miller’s plays are the most valuable. This is partly a matter of expectation. The play does not – as does Death of a Seller – staggered under everyone’s burden. The political update is less challenging than Breogal. He has such an unexpected heart. A Greek tragedy set in 1950s Brooklyn, its plot revolves around a middle-aged longshoreman’s obsession with his teenage niece. He is alive with doom.

The strangeness was dramatized viscerally in Ivo van Hove’s production of the Young Vic’s flesh-backed nine years ago. It can even be seen in Lindsay Posner’s more stolid production. The pace is deliberate. Martin Marquez’s introduction as the narrator is stiff; Peter McKintosh’s design – brown tenement buildings with iron staircases – anchors the setting but does little to create claustrophobia. However, there is a growing sense of dislocation. The evening is lively when it matters most. In the central performances.

Dominic West is a great Eddie, especially because – yes, he’s the same actor who played Prince Charles in The Crown – he convinces you that he has put in a day on the docks. He begins as physically calm as a big cat; as his angus grows, he becomes a blood blister of a man: dark in the face, heavy limbs, ready to burst. His unfulfilled desire – his inability to admit what he feels – stains his own life and the lives of those around him. Kate Fleetwood is extremely subtle and intelligent as the cast wife who never stops loving her husband. Her reactions are under the skin – her eyes flicking, mouth narrowing as displeasure drains her color – but from the parting of her lips a strong truth emerges. Nia Towle makes a beautifully passionate debut as the wanted niece.

It struck me for the first time how radically all the characters are displaced, psychologically or physically; how they look with wonder or horror at those who live differently. The trigger of the tragedy is the arrival of Italian immigrants without legal documentation: one of whom Eddie jealously denied as anyone, because he can cook. The ending – with betrayal, authorities knocking on the door, and bloodshed – provides a dire warning for today.

Star ratings (out of five)
Viola’s room
View from the Bridge ★★★

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