Dir. Stewart Laing, Citizens Theatre, 12th-22nd Nov
Are we modern yet? Untitled Projects are raising some strong questions with their production of Slope in the Citizens circle studio.
On the surface, the play explores the love affair between 19th Century poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, but it also explores the love affair between the traditional and the contemporary in theatre. When Untitled Projects first produced Pamela Carter’s play in 2006, it was hailed by critics for its design, the audience looking down into the bathroom in which the action took place. For many companies, this is not something they would look to change or try to push further. Untitled Projects are not many companies.
The audience sit around the edges of the circle studio, joined occasionally by the cast. It pulls you straight into the action, and the tension that cuts through the whole piece. James Edwyn as Rimbaud is in equal parts tantalising and disgusting. Owen Whitelaw’s Verlaine switches effortlessly between pathetic, terrifying and corrupt, and Jessica Hardwick presents by the end of the piece an incredibly welcome strength as Verlaine’s young wife Mathilde.
The performance in the circle studio is not all this production has to offer, live streamed every night by KILTR. The cameras around the studio are unassuming, until you’re made to notice them as, at various points in the show, the set is redressed and the cameras realigned. This show wants you to notice its technology, and the new boundaries its pushing.
This is at its most obvious when, after an intense scene of verbal sparring, naked fighting, and drinking, Edwyn rises from the ground to state the date and location. He tells us the end of Rimbaud’s story before we have reached it. Hardwick returns to the stage to share Pina Bausch’s Rites of Spring on an iPhone. The question, “Are we new yet?” is raised again. It is this self awareness of a contemporary company rooted in literature and tradition that makes Untitled Projects produce such great work again and again.
[Emma Ainley-Walker – @emaw23]