Not this show, of course. The show that’s supposed to have been happening. The one Death is trying to tell us about, to help us imagine, distracted partially by his own rambling train of thought but mainly by the woman screeching and writhing and pretending to disembowel herself behind him. That show had a warm-up man. There were dancers, and a band. It isn’t this show, which is just him talking and the woman dying. Two kinds of death, uneasily sharing a stage that was meant for something else.
I don’t know what it’s about either. Which is brilliant. Like the best art, it defies understanding – not by being complex and inaccessible but by offering the possibility of multiple interpretations while making it impossible to settle on a single one. Death is in there, but so is the nature of theatre, the primacy (or otherwise) of the physical over the verbal. The whole thing even works, if you’re not feeling like going in too deep, as a sort of avant-garde comedy sketch.
Working on a bare stage without props (except a single microphone), the actors acquit themselves well. Claire (Claire Marshall) hurls and drags herself about in a performance that works on a fine line between the disturbing and the ridiculous. Death/Robin (Robin Arthur) is very funny, with a wry diffidence that occasionally tips over into uneasy silence. He also displays his own subtle physicality – odd poses, small bursts of movement as he tried to demonstrate what the dancers or the band might have done. If there were dancers. If there was a band.
This might sound rather forbidding, but it really isn’t. There are no extreme gestures, no grand transgressions. The piece isn’t interested in shocking you – it wants you to join in, to be open, to listen to and think about the things it has to say. Theatrical experiences like this don’t come along too often. It’s worth catching them when they do.