Contains Violence

Created by David Rosenberg
Shunt Company
Lyric Hammersmith balcony

View of the office building in which the lay takes place with audience in foreground

The office block across the Lyric's square is the stage. The auditorium is the Lyric's roof balcony. An army of efficient ushers provides anoraks, binoculars and headphones to experience events taking place on the second and fourth floors of the office block of joined buildings. Peering through the windows at the unfolding drama through binoculars the audience follow the events in a voyeuristic fashion.

There are four characters, three males and a female. The woman is situated on the second floor and the men are attracted to her sexuality as bees to a scented wild flower.

The narrator, via headphone communications, puts the audience on notice from the outset that this woman is a killer and that the man on the fourth floor have little time to live, but of course, the victim does not know that. The audience has an opportunity to see the execution of one office employee by another. The suspense is in when and how!

Max and Ben Ringham's acoustic design is striking. The sounds coming through the headphones have the effect of a sophisticated zoom of a camera. They generate an audio 3D effect. What the eye cannot see the ear can hear amplified.

Rosenberg leads the audience into a familiar territory of offices with the old Mac computer and basic office equipment. A manager is shown in emotional turmoil, attempting to draft a letter of resignation and listening from time to time to voice messages and receives the bland answer, 'no messages'. You get the picture.

The narrator tells us "You are in the room. You are in his head". In fact the sounds and commentary did not draw one into the room or the character's head. The actions that followed made the separating Lyric square more evident. The glass windows of the offices grew thicker as time ticked on.

The visit by Kim, whose name can be of either sex, is yet another pathetic office employee. He seems to "float" aimlessly between the second and fourth floor. His visits to the second floor are clearly targeted to seduce the female employee. We learn something of his views when he insists on a PowerPoint presentation to her of his pictures.

Rosenberg may have attempted to show the brutality and utter faceless and lifeless nature of much office life. Once the manager is stripped off his suit, a pathetic individual is exposed.

The brutalities that ensue are all effected with office equipment. The Mac can be used for typing a desperate letter of resignation and for other purposes one normally would not contemplate.

This ambitious and interesting concept, where cinematic ploys are introduced in a theatrical performance, will no doubt be explored and expanded in the future by other playwrights and directors. The concept is fascinating, but the execution is still raw. The characters across the road were too dull to generate excitement or interest in their fate. There was too much of the slow motion to keep interest in the drama. Having said that, the night I attended the terrace was full despite the freezing cold night and extremely uncomfortable chairs.

Playing until 10th May

Reviewer: Rivka Jacobson

Are you sure?