Interiors @ Lyric Studio, London

cast list
Elicia Daly, Sara Lazzaro, Myra McFadyen, Andrew Melville, Aurora Peres, Davide Pini Carenzi, Barnaby Power, Damir Todorovic

conceived and directed by
Matthew Lenton
In Interiors the audience are separated from the performers by a clear plastic wall.

This does two things: it serves to emphasise the inherent voyeurism of the onlookers and it also acts as a silencer so that the audience cannot hear what the characters say, they can only sit and watch.

Inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck’s symbolist play Interior, Vanishing Point’s production is set in an unnamed northern country where the nights are long and people require rifles to venture outdoors.

It is in fact the longest night of the year and a dinner party is being thrown to mark the occasion by Andrew, an elderly gent in a red waistcoat and silk neckerchief.
Various friends arrive including middle-aged Myra who affects to know much about wine; thirty-something couple Aurora and Barnaby; tall, awkward Damir, a stranger to most of those present; and Davide the boyfriend of Sara, Andrew’s granddaughter.

Despite the surreal touch of the rifles in the corner it’s a very familiar, domestic set-up: corks are popped, gifts are given, pleasantries are exchanged. Except, of course, the audience hears none of this and the absence of dialogue allows for a keener focus on the interactions of the characters, the small gestures, the hidden grimaces, the forced smiles.

At first events unfold in near-silence, the only sound the whirling wind and snow outside the house, but after a while a woman’s voice begins to comment on what’s going on. Her tone is gently mocking, a little mischievous; she is eventually revealed to the audience as a figure in white, like them an outsider looking in. This woman directly addresses the audience, pausing to stare in at the windows.

Though experimental in form, the production manages at the same time to be a hugely entertaining and accessible thing, very, very funny in places especially when a degree of wine has flowed and, warm of blood, Aurora and Barnaby start dancing exuberantly to Video Killed The Radio Star (though the dialogue can’t be heard, the audience can hear the music). It’s also very poignant, at times quite acutely moving: an unwise proposal is rejected, a relationship that has barely bloomed starts to fade.

The international cast work well together; resisting the urge to overplay the visual, their movements and interactions feel natural, necessary. The production as a whole has the appeal of a walk through a city at night, all those small human stories unfolding in lit windows, a family sitting down to dinner, a couple watching television, everyday occurrences that become fascinating at a remove, viewed fleetingly through glass.

By the end of its 80 minutes, it does end up overstating its case a bit, hammering keys that before had been struck softly, tugging a little too forcefully on emotional strings, but this doesn’t dull its message that for all the pain, regret and disappointment in life, both big (the loss of love) and small (the receiving of pork stew for dinner when you’re a vegetarian) once you’re on the outside there’s no going back.

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