The Other (Jack Laskey) is desperately trying to understand The One’s (Tom Brooke) low mood and why he spends so much time at sea in his little boat. The One resorts to taking The Other out to a little cove on an island beyond the shore in an attempt to show, rather than tell. But as words fail, patience are frayed, and tensions grow between them, they soon push out onto the open ocean. As the wind picks up and the waves rise, what is to become of their ever-drifting relationship, and of the little boat left to the mercy of an unforgiving sea?
This bleak, yet stunning portrait of depression is an interesting piece of absurdist theatre by Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse (translated by Simon Stephens). What makes this a truly masterful and striking production are Richard Peduzzi’s astonishing set, and Laskey and Brooke’s strong performances.
The Young Vic’s main auditorium is transformed into a starkly featureless landscape with a pool of murky water at its centre. But at a moment’s notice staging miraculously rises out of the water, representing the characters’ boat. This bobs and rocks throughout mimicking the movement of a small vessel, yet appears to levitate above the placid pool of water, creating an entrancing and surreal visual juxtaposition.
Both Laskey and Brooke’s performances are remarkable, especially in how, under the direction of Patrice Chéreau, they manage to master the fractured pace and tone of the nonsensical dialogue. They also manage to convey a maelstrom of intense emotions, and portray excellently the ambiguities and nuances of Fosse’s text.
Those who are unfamiliar or uneasy with absurdist theatre should treat this play with caution. Fosse’s text isn’t the most accessible as it is incredibly dense and for the most part fails to make any sense or follow little logic. The repetitions, circular arguments, unfinished sentences, long pauses, and opaque implicitness can not only be frustrating, but can also cause the audience to become disengage. But there are times when the very same techniques are used to create some startling moments of frightening and heartbreaking theatre. This is especially true at the play’s climax. Once everything finally comes together, the effect is both rapturous and emotionally crushing.
Yet on closer scrutiny of the text itself, one is left to wonder just how much of the play is carried purely by the performances and the production. If left with smaller production values and lesser talent, it is debateable whether they play would actually be as good as it currently is. Especially when looking at the recent successful London revivals of both Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, who are still revered as masters of the genre, Fosse’s work can be considered lacking by comparison.
However, for now this particular production is simply sublime. Those who wish to be entertained should probably sit this one out, but others who see theatre more of an artistic medium will lap this up with relish.
I Am the Wind plays at the Young Vic Theatre, London, SE1 8LZ, until 21 May 2011. Tickets are £10 – £27.50. To book, call 020 7922 2922 or visit www.youngvic.org.