Polygraph

Robert Lepage and Marie Brassard

Nottingham Playhouse

(2003)

Review by Steve Orme

For more than 50 years Nottingham Playhouse has been renowned for staging innovative work, new writing and forgotten masterpieces. Its new season began with Eclipse Theatre's Moon On A Rainbow Shawl, designed to raise the profile of black theatre in this country, and is followed by Polygraph which returns after 18 months for a mini-run of eight performances.

Polygraph is stunning, a 90-minute interval-free work which calls for total concentration so that you can immerse yourself in all its nuances and twists. Otherwise you may not understand the significance of a line or scene which unravels itself some time later.

The action never lets up and there are surprises from beginning to end with the play's construction, special effects and tension. The story revolves around the unsolved murder of a woman several years previously. A young waiter, François, who discovered the body is accused of the crime and takes a polygraph (lie detector) test which proves his innocence. However, he is not told of the result.

Later, actress Lucie, who has been starring as Hamlet in an unorthodox French production of the Bard's classic, successfully auditions for a film role - as the murder victim. Her reactions to the murder are contrasted with those of François and the criminologist who couldn't find the killer.

When the play was initially produced in Nottingham, it was the first time Quebec-born Lepage had not been directly involved in a production that he had created. Playhouse artistic director Giles Croft has again brought Polygraph to life, turning it into a multi-sensory perception with cinematic backdrops, clever use of mirrors and slow-motion sequences which move the action on to its pulsating conclusion.

Set around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the play searches for truth, which in this instance has alarming consequences.

Mark Bailey's design features a wall which symbolically dominates the action and is always an obstacle to the truth. Jeanine Davies' spellbinding lighting coupled with haunting music give a nervous edge to the proceedings.

The combination of Simon Coury's Christof, Trevor White's François and Sophie Goulet's Lucie works well, although sometimes you feel that the actors are secondary to the concept.

There can be no doubt that Polygraph is an amazing, individual work. Visually and conceptually it is spectacular.