Adler & Gibb

Tim Crouch

Tim Crouch and the Royal Court Theatre

Summerhall

From 03 August 2016 to 27 August 2016

Rating: ****

Review by David Chadderton

Tim Crouch here presents a version of his 2014 play that, he says in the programme, has been simplified in its staging since its original Royal Court production.

The play takes the story of artist Janet Adler and her long-term partner in life and art Margaret Gibb, told in the form of a dissertation presentation by a student (Jillian Pullara) in 2004, a year after Adler's death.

But form is something that is never straightforward with Crouch. When we flash into the story of Adler and Gibb, it is not a flashback but an actress who is to play Adler in a film and her acting coach breaking into Adler and Gibb's old house to research her part, not realising that Gibb was still living, let alone living in the house.

The story begins to get sinister as actress Louise (Cath Whitefield) is determined to get what she wants whatever it takes, despite extreme hostility from Gibb (Gina Moxley) and her coach Sam's (Mark Edel-Hunt) rapidly deteriorating condition due to injuries sustained on barbed wire.

The actors perform their lines vocally but physically remain fairly motionless, facing the audience throughout. A small child, instructed over headphones by someone speaking quietly into a microphone, moves props, which are sometimes literal and sometimes abstract, and stands in for some things, such as the dog and the body of the artist. The style of the piece, presumably, comments theatrically on the work of the artist it depicts.

Finally, we get to see some of the film made by Louise and Sam, and the resulting awards ceremony.

As with much of Crouch's work, it takes some commitment from the audience to piece it all together, but there are rewards for taking the trouble to do so. But it is also not without humour, and there are clearly messages about an artist's right to privacy and the way he or she is represented.