Arts Review: The Driver’s Seat

Dir. Laurie Sansom, The Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 13th-27th June

Centred around Lise (Morven Christie) a mentally-troubled young woman who decides to travel to France for some relief from the mundanity of her stifling office job in an accountancy firm, The Driver’s Seat is shrouded in ambiguity from the beginning.  The real intentions behind Lise’s trip are a mystery for much of the performance, however it gradually becomes clear that Lise is searching for a particular man – the identity of whom, as well as his location, remain unclear.

On the grand stage of Edinburgh’s Lyceum theatre, there is room for innovative use of props and scenery which make for some dynamic scenes and many times the audience is brought to laughter by effects only achievable with the creative use of furniture on stage. Lise’s flamboyant outfits with garish and clashing colours and patterns are a notable success.

Lise encounters various strangers on her adventure including two men who make unrestrained sexual advances upon her resulting in the anticipation of a sinister ending despite the largely comedic dialogue between Lise and the other characters. This is intensified by the mens’ kidnapping of her concluding in a scenario in which it appears that Lise may be about to be raped. Despite this she escapes unharmed and shortly afterwards lays eyes on the mysterious man for whom she has been searching.

At this point, the play takes a dramatic and sinister turn as Lise convinces the young man to take her to a deserted area and to tie her up and kill her. This shocking and bizarre turn of events may be interpreted as satire on the preposterousness of such situations, particularly those in which the victims are supposed to have led on their attackers. Alternatively it could be construed that the threats that Lise already encountered have led her to sense the inevitability of her impending murder and that the part she plays in her own death is in fact her way of reclaiming control of her own destiny; allowing her to retrieve power and giving double weight to the title of the play. If Muriel Spark intended to prompt thought concerning the issue of violence against women within her novel, Laurie Sansom’s adaptation has without a doubt succeeded.

[Kathy Carr]

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