Monday, November 03, 2008

Things Lost & Found in Edinburgh 1

Along with Tom Pinhorn, I directed the lovely & late Aerin Davidson's Darning Jilly at the Edinburgh fringe this year. The whole experience was amazing and insane and sort of great but awful at the same time. I have never had less sleep, seen such a quantity of amazing and truly terrible things or experienced such a degree of general daily debauchery in my entire 23 years of life. A lot of what went on in Edinburgh will stay in Edinburgh, but these are some gems I brought home with me:

1. TR Warszawa's production of 4.48 Psychosis

Shown for 2 nights only as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, this Polish translation of Kane was totally absorbing and horrendously moving. As far as I could tell, the script had been shuffled around and edited to form more of a narrative arc, held together by Madalena Cielecka as the protagonist desceding into a personal hell. There was a large supporting cast, including a small child and a skeletal old woman, who shared out the rest of the script, or the bits that appear to be dialogue. The fact that this was such a high budget and technically slick production, as well as the quality of the acting and the innovative direction, made the piece all the more immersive. Basically the whole audience are dragged into hell with this woman, and the effects were so real that were this play staged in a more interactivity-friendly environment (as many lower-budget fringe productions were) then I feel like someone would have intervened. As it was, we all (over 200 of us on the night I went) just sat there, paralysed, as Cielecka, wrists slashed, threw herself against a wall over and over again, covering the stage in blood.

"It is myself I have never met, whose face is pasted on the underside of my mind

please open the curtains"

These last lines were followed by silence, then the last number of the play, which seemed to count down in a series from 100 to mark changes in scene, echoes repeatedly through the theatre, a kind of call to action. "2" over and over again, & the lights went down on the stage and up on the audience, as all you could hear are uncomfortable coughs and the occasional sob. After a few minutes of absorbing the shock, the paralysis was broken by a solitary clap. Somehow everything on the stage had vanished without us seeing. There was a halfhearted applause and we all filed out into the night, a bit broken.

I felt - unfashionably - involved, invested and fucking heartbroken by the whole thing. At the same time it struck me that something was maybe being said about the futility of art, like there was this beautiful thing happening which was actually just horrible torture and death, and the fact that we were all sitting there with no idea what to do or how to react, that all we could do was absorb and walk away, that you probably come to the play with all this knowledge of Kane's life and suicide shortly after she wrote the play, that you still go and see it & that seems voyeuristic, & then you struggle to divide the two because that's also seemed to all say a lot about Kane's work, both playing with the idea of theatre & then being an intensely subjective and involving story, & also the relationship between work & writer. Complicated, beautifully wrought, irreconcilable.

Part 2 shortly.