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The Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Throughout The Lover, a branch slowly grows and blossoms above the stage, mirroring the blossoming of the autobiographical character in Marguerite Duras’ novel-turned-play. She is a fifteen-year-old French girl (Amy Hollinshead) who embarks on an affair with a 27-year-old Chinese man (Yosuke Kusano). We see the story through the eyes of the girl’s older self (Susan Vidler), who also muses on her dysfunctional family (Kieran Brown and Francesco Ferrari).

The programme would have the audience believe The Lover is a reminiscence on how this early, illicit romance changed the girl’s life forever. However, the play never really leaves 1929 Vietnam to explore the consequences of her experiences, leading to a somewhat inconsequential feel to the whole production.

Although inconsequential, it has undoubted moments of beauty. The production is a bold collaboration between The Lyceum and Stellar Quines theatre companies, and Scottish Dance Theatre and both the acted and danced elements have their moments.

The writing is of high quality, and the verbal evocation of the hot streets of Saigon or the rushing waters of the Mekong delta are heart-achingly powerful. Likewise, certain vignettes throughout the play – a family staring at the stars, two lovers almost touching – are strikingly beautiful.

Unfortunately, the way the dance and drama have been combined make it impossible to fully enjoy either. A piece of prose will just start to work its magic when it is interrupted by two figures writhing across the stage. Equally, just as dances start to come together, they are frequently interrupted by acted scenes or spoken narration.

Related to this are two other issues which further hamper enjoyment of what is an ambitious undertaking and might have been an enjoyable play. The choreography of much of the dancing is clumsy, verging on the chaotic. Almost every dance seems to involve two performers rolling around on top of each other, which swiftly becomes tiresome.

Furthermore, in their quest to make the whole production feel as much like memory as possible, almost every word is spoken by Vidler. This is fine while she is speaking directly to the audience in the character of her older self, but distracting when her words come via recordings.

This reliance on pre-recorded audio leads to moments when it is unclear if the sound the audience is hearing is deliberate or the result of a plug falling out. It also creates a disconnect between what is happening on stage, and the words being spoken, giving the whole play a somewhat weightless feel.

  • Drama/Dance
  • Adapted from Marguerite Duras’ novel by Fleur Darkin and Jemima Levick
  • Directed By: Fleur Darkin and Jemima Levick
  • Cast: Kieran Brown, Francesco Ferrari, Amy Hollinshead, Yosuke Kusano & Susan Vidler
  • The Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
  • Until 3 February 2018

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