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Almost Blue

Christopher Dunkley (adapted from the novel by Carlo Lucarelli)
Riverside Studios
(2005)

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The first thing to hit the audience as it files in to Almost Blue is the sound. Simon (played by Declan Harvey) is already on stage scanning the airwaves. It sets the tone for the evening because sounds, and the way we perceive them, are at the heart of the script.

It is the story of a series of murders that hit the student community. Grace (played by Abigail Davies) is a police inspector from Yorkshire who is on the trail of the killer and has followed him to London. All she has to go on is the suspicion that the killer meets his victims via chat-rooms on the internet, and a set of fingerprints that turn out to belong to a man who died eight years ago.

Luckily she is contacted by Simon, who believes he has heard the voice of the killer while scanning the radio frequencies. Simon is blind but has synaesthesia - a condition where the senses mix and overlap. In Simon's case, he relates sounds to colours. The killer's voice sounds green to him - fake and cold.

As the tale unfolds we discover that the killer has an obsession with cutting flesh. He removes whole faces and takes on the persona of the person he killed.

Almost Blue is a challenging evening's theatre for the audience as they struggle to come to terms with the unusual plot presented by the writer, Christopher Dunkley, who adapted it from the novel by Carlo Lucarelli. Many people will not have come across synaesthesia and its implications before but the collaboration of the lighting, sound and set design gave a perfect insight into what it means.

Throughout the play, the lighting (designed by Andy Purves) was kept deliberately low so that we are forced to rely on our other senses to understand the story. Under the direction of Lu Kemp, the sound design by Gareth Fry and choreography by Dominic Leclerc fused perfectly to give an unsettling impression of doom, terror and desperation. Through Grace's floundering investigation, we understand something of the chaotic nature of Simon's world.

The actual murders take the form of a dance, energetically performed by the cast. The performance is not for the faint-hearted though, as we are treated to graphic insights into the murderer's mind.

Declan Harvey gives a convincing performance as the shy, blind man reluctantly thrust into a dangerous world. The production is impressively slick and the story is well-told. Almost Blue won the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award for 2005, deservedly so for the imagination and realisation of a concept that is difficult to visualise.

Runs until 11th December

Reviewer: Bronagh Taggart