Vanishing Point’s INTERIORS; a little overwintered…

Reviewer's Rating

Vanishing Point’s INTERIORS is a co-production inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck’s play of the same name. Note, “inspired”; the show itself is not a retelling or an adaptation of Maeterlinck’s work; it holds a life of its own. As part of the London International Mime Festival, this is Vanishing Point’s first appearance, following a delayed scheduling from the dreaded lurgy.

 The premise is a group of friends gathering for a meal round a table in the harsh winter, and the usual thing happens of drink and laughter and comfort, and then a little too much comfort, discomfort, a little misdirected laughter, flirting, a little too much drinking. I’m sure we can all remember a night that became “that night”. The twist is apparently that outside of the room, someone is watching. Is that us, the audience? Is there an absent guest soon to reveal themselves?

We, the audience peer into the house through the wood panelled walls like peeping Toms. Sometimes you don’t know if you are a fly sitting on the slightly old-fashioned papered walls. In many ways the theatre stage at the Barbican suits the show; it’s dark, imposing (both the brown seating and room but also the brutalist architecture) like winters in the North. The house is almost doll-like; at times I wondered if we were going to experience a live action Hereditary, where none of the characters have any autonomy over their actions and we just watch the events unfold. The whole thing is in silence (it is mime, after all!) but then, a voice penetrates the action with a running commentary, guiding us to the action we need to see in the house. It’s very jarring, probably because the voice is so infant-like. I won’t be giving anything away to reveal that as the show progresses, we never learn of the connection with this voice, or who it emits from. It’s funny at times but for the wrong reasons, and it feels like an afterthought used to attempt contextualising, but it muddies the waters.

I’m not sure if this piece is set in a particular place – if I had to guess, somewhere in Scandinavia? – but a key theme of INTERIORS is about the experience of waiting for Winter to ebb. I can share that feeling. In this sense, the show is timely, but Lenton (the show’s creator) doesn’t waste our time with any clear narrative, though I think that’s what the show would really benefit from. There were many opportunities to explore deeper moments that would have me investing in the characters. 

As short a piece as it is, I yearned for it to get to the point quicker, and sadly it never came. Characters were getting two desserts, I didn’t get one. I happen to like Norwegian slow TV and the ASMR of it, but if this is meant to be a short-lived experience for an audience, it’s very vanilla. I wanted more, I didn’t get more.