The Vaults Theatre. There’s nothing quite like it. The venue is in some refurbished arches, with its own bar, buried beneath Waterloo Station – you can hear the tube. It feels like a very trendy space: perfect to attract the coolest cats from Brixton and Shoreditch.
This space also has the ideal atmosphere for CUT: eerie and somewhat terrifying. CUT is a broken sequence of monologues, inspired by the story of the Greek Fates, written and directed by Duncan Graham, and delivered by Hannah Norris, who plays an air stewardess. It’s obvious very early on that this woman is insane, like Bedlam-level insane; Freud would have a field day. Her psychological illnesses become more and more apparent as we delve into her twisted mind.
Light is a major theme, or rather the absence of it. Norris controls the lights via a remote in her hand, often plunging the audience into total darkness. The effect is very disconcerting, creating a sort of unreality; like you’re inside her head rather than an actual physical space. The monologues occur at different moments in time. There’s a childhood memory of torturing a fish – think Elisabeth Bishop’s poem only with a lot more violence and fire. There’s a surrealist nightmare, a film-noir style chase narrative and a lot more. It’s basically a mixture of all parts of her life, real and possibly delusional, accompanied with an absolutely disgusting soundtrack, appropriate for the action – nails on a chalkboard, but a thousand times worse. It’s not for the faint-hearted.
Even though it’s 60 minutes there’s a lot packed in. There’s a performance art element to it as well: Norris puts on plastic gloves, wears a pair of tights as a t-shirt, puts some cling film up, and plays with scissors. By now she’s muttering to herself as well. At the apex of crazy she commits murder, covering a man in petrol and setting him on fire. Or at least she says she does. It’s all very uncertain. She talks a lot about mirrors and reflections, perhaps because her warped sense of self, and I think this is where all the performance art side comes into it: it’s all about image and the importance of sight. CUT challenges notions of identity and the self in strikingly physical and shocking ways.
The end bears similarity to the beginning, with Norris starting her morning routine. You are left with an uncertainty about what’s transpired. This woman is so insane, you really can’t trust anything she says or does. I think CUT is more about immersion in her psychotic mind: a realm of imagination and mental anguish, rather than literal events. It’s a very experimental piece that succeeds in being interesting. I think it’s best to see it yourself, since it’s the kind of thing that invites individual responses.