Theatre Review: Vanishing Point – Saturday Night (Tramway Theatre)

Vanishing Point returned to the Tramway with a show reminiscent of ‘Interiors’, their last production. Separated from the stage by a panel of glass, the audience survey the action as if they were looking into a block of flats. Privy to no character dialogue whatsoever, we only hear sounds such as the television set, a hoover and a guitar being strummed. In the two flats we are allowed to see, the muted actors perform in mime. Above the main point of action, an old woman sits in a small room for the entire performance watching a television in the dark. Beneath her a young couple give a display of their life.

The piece begins slowly, with the couple moving into the flat, arranging their furniture, listening to the radio, burning their cooking and other menial tasks. Their life is seemingly ordinary. The pace begins to accelerate and the performance simultaneously acquires a new surrealism. Suddenly the wife becomes heavily pregnant and kisses her neighbour on the sofa before going into labour in the bathroom. As she gives birth to her baby between the sink and bath it is snatched away by a midwife who suddenly appears whilst the other three main characters stand oblivious next door. The living room’s back door swings open of its own accord: actors in slightly ridiculous gorilla and astronaut costumes enter, startling the young wife. She finds her husband lying motionless on the sofa and cannot wake him up. It conspires that he is dead, her neighbours enter and exit rapidly, asking her favours, ignoring the body slumped before them. By this time, the living room is a cluttered mess and ivy has descended from the ceiling into the room. The auditorium is left confused. The sheet of glass between us and the action has isolated us from the play’s meaning. The significance of what we’ve endured is anyone’s guess.

Just as our minds begin to worry about how we’ll make conversation about this mish-mash in the Tramway bar, the old woman from the flat above appears on the lower level and looks about the debris of her life strewn around the living room. In an instant everything is justified and clear. It becomes clear that everything we have seen is symbolic of occurrences in the woman’s life. Her affair, her miscarriage and the death of her husband – along with her friends’ abandonment of her after this – have all been represented in miniature form, packed tight into a short Saturday evening.

It is tempting to think that everything we have seen was the visions of the elderly woman, seconds before her death. Perhaps the astronauts and gorillas she sees are her mind playing tricks on her, mistaking the figures for forensic doctors who remove her body from the stage in the play’s final seconds. Perhaps the haste of the play’s latter stages is an acknowledgement of how quickly life passes by. At the same time the vines hanging down into the room might denote the stagnation of the woman’s life and the messy living room hint at how difficult life is to control. What is remarkable about Vanishing Point’s production is the split second metamorphosis at the end. One second we are baffled, the next we are handed a huge pool of thoughts and opinions about the play by the final revelation.

Saturday Night’ is not always enjoyable to watch, but perhaps that is the point. Life is complicated and incomprehensible and often leaves us feeling lost and lonely, like the elderly lady at the end. As in ‘Interiors’, watching the performers act through a sheet of glass at times feels tiresome – even the most naturalist of scenes will have subtle traces of exaggeration; the actors must ensure we know exactly what we’re watching – but this prying perspective is an interesting one. Totally restricting an audience from dialogue is a rare and daring choice to make. It provides an atmosphere in which the clever representation of the woman’s life thrives. Whilst it is confusing and at times aggravating to watch, ‘Saturday Night’ triggers the audience’s sympathy at its climax and its resolution leaves us considering how we will fare in the remainder of our lives.

Review by: Abraham ParkerClare

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