The Royal Court Theatre presents
By Anthony Neilson
6 June - 5 July 2008
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
Tickets: £15. Mondays all seats £10 Concs £10
“Are you going to do bathtime?
Are you going to give the kids a bath? I don’t want to get wet.
Oh. Yes. Right. But, David . . . ?
Well . . .
Just say it.
We don’t have any children.”
Next Production: Oxford Street - At Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre
A sinister mystery by Anthony Neilson whose previous work includes God in Ruins, The Wonderful World of Dissocia, Realism and Stitching.
Director Anthony Neilson
Designer Miriam Buether
Sound Designer Nick Powell
Not recommended for anyone under the age of 16.
Running time approx 1hr 30mins
The Scariest Show in Town
Terrific… has a sense of foreboding unlike anything I’ve experienced, and induces a quality of silence from its audience that is something truly special.
— Evening Standard
Not an experience for the faint-hearted. Morally challenging and riveting. Leaves an indelible stain on the memory.
This brilliantly directed piece takes us to a place that’s inaccessible to news reports and editorial. Once seen, never forgotten.
Chilling, vivid and unnervingly topical. Deeply disconcerting… dark and dreamlike. X-certificate theatre that depicts all too recognisable human atrocities.
Murder mystery, wrapped in a ghost story, inside a nightmare. Relocated drags you into the shadows and doesn’t let go.
Select a Date
Dates in June
|Fri 6 Jun 2008||12:00am||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
Sold out Performances
£15. Mondays all seats £10 Concs £10
4 stars Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard, Monday 16th June
The chiller thriller, a piece of such nerve-shredding tension that neighbours’ arms are grabbed for comfort, is so much the domain of cinema that it’ s a wonderful surprise to come across one theatrically. This terrific work from writer/director Anthony Neilson has a sense of foreboding unlike anything I’ve experienced, and induces a quality of silence from its audience that is something truly special.
Exactly what is going on may prove elusive but it’s the atmosphere unfolding behind the gauze screen separating actors from auditorium that is so gripping. Reality shifts and cast members swap roles but the key facts are clear: a girl has gone missing, a German man has done terrible things in a basement and a woman – who may or may not be called Connie – is chasing clues.
Shadowy darkness and unsettling sound effects are cleverly punctuated by cathartic bursts of between-scene light. Then it’s back to Japanese horror film-style murk where Nicola Walker gives a superb turn as the increasingly hemmed-in Connie and Frances Grey confidently portrays the terror of a woman whose partner keeps thinking he’s seen little girls.
We long for this to end for our heart rates’ sake, but instantly will it to start all over again. 4 stars Caroline McGinn, Time Out Critics Choice, Wednesday 18th June
You can see why they opened this on Friday 13. Anthony Neilsons new play (he also directs) returns to the shock-horror territory of his early 90s drama Normal: The Dsseldorf Ripper. These days, its child-abusers, rather than Hannibal the Cannibal, who rampage through the popular imagination. And Relocated, which opens with a middle-aged woman vacuuming while the radio news blares, flicks chillingly through headline horrors in search of the one which has gripped her in a living nightmare.
What this play does most effectively is grab you by the pulse and keep you there, quaking, for every one of its 80 minutes. Being locked in a dungeon helps. The audience is on one side of a gauze wall in a black-painted, black-carpeted, windowless room (the implacable work of Miriam Buether). On the other side, the woman vacuums and vacuums until, with horrific suddenness, she collapses and the play begins. First, she has a weirdly dissociated confrontation with a man who has pornographic pictures of her she cant remember having taken. Shes relocated to a different flat, where shes haunted by lost children in a moonlit playground. Whats she on the run from? Where are the missing children? When the actress swaps roles with the younger actress playing her posh, nosy neighbour, the play asks which prison is worse: a dungeon, or an inescapably tainted identity?
Oblique memories alternate with dreams, in scenes which are increasingly scary and surreal, separated by nerve-wrackingly total blackouts. The womans identity seems to be, ultimately, a dialogue between Maxine Carr and the imprisoned daughter of Josef Fritzl. Neilson brilliantly creates a world where you expect these monsters to come out and play. But the topicality is also its weakness: in the cold light of day, the characters soon look like paper creatures, collaged from the red-tops.
Paul Taylor, Independent, Tuesday 17th June
4 stars Anthony Neilson has had a bumpy relationship with the Royal Court. Their first brush with each other, in 2002, ended in tears. As playwright-director, Neilson’s usual practice is to go into rehearsal without a script and to develop the piece with the actors. But the Royal Court demanded a completed text in advance. The result, a black farce called The Lying Kind, satisfied nobody and the theatre then cancelled a further commission.
It’s an index of the vision and flexibility of Dominic Cooke’s regime at the Court that Neilson, one of our most imaginatively disquieting dramatists, has been welcomed back into the fold. The benefits of letting him use his own working methods are powerfully apparent in Relocated, a tense, scary piece that plays, with unsettling topicality, on all our worst anxieties about child abduction and abuse. It invokes the spectre of Josef Fritzl and his cellar of horrors, and it imagines a parallel nightmare-world in which a Fritzl-like personage has managed to escape and change his identity.
As you climb the steps to the Theatre Upstairs, you’re assailed by the acrid stench of bleach. On stage, a woman is busy vacuuming. Already, you have the creepy sense that something foul is being covered up. The woman with the vacuum cleaner suddenly collapses and it’s hinted that what follows may be her dying dream. The drama proceeds as a series of elliptical, enigmatic episodes, sometimes rerun with niggling variations. Anagrams of names play a key role and you sometimes feel that Relocated is an exercise in tantalising rearrangement.
Gradually, you begin to perceive that Neilson is creating a scenario in which a Maxine Carr-like figure, forever on the run because of her involvement in the Soham murders and superbly played here by Nicola Walker, Frances Gray and Jan Pearson, is brought into the orbit of an eerily made-over Fritzl (Phil McKee). As well as offering a weird perspective on the idea of loyalty and fatherly protectiveness, this brilliantly directed piece takes us to a place that’s inaccessible to news reports and editorials. Once seen, never forgotten. 2 stars Sam Marlowe, Times, Tuesday 17th June
The stairway leading to a featureless room stinks of bleach. Inside, a woman vacuums, before abruptly collapsing to the floor. The air is filled with frantic whispers. Outside in the rain a man waits for the woman with a dossier of explicit pornographic images of her that he says were found on the internet. A dog barks. Then the scene, seething with the sinister and unexplained, shifts. We hear the voices of children from a nearby school. A teacher talks of a murdered little girl. Water, and then blood, drips from a ceiling.
Anthony Neilson’s new play, written during the rehearsal period and finished just days before its opening, is claustrophobic and clotted with menace. It’s performed, in the author’s horribly compelling production, behind a black gauze, which turns from opaque to transparent with lighting changes. It’s as though we can see through walls, glimpsing the terrors that can occur inside seemingly commonplace homes. It’s a nightmarish vision that calls to mind not just the recent Josef Fritzl case, but also Fred West, the Soham murders and the abductions of Madeleine McCann and Shannon Matthews.
Slowly, a central story emerges of a woman who, having once had knowledge of a gruesome crime, is now a fugitive from her past and her guilt. Neilson’s writing leaves a trail of teasing clues. One character puzzles over a newspaper crossword, and following the play’s layered, disquietingly fractured narrative has a similarly vexed quality. Names turn out to be anagrams; witnesses become victims; the trusted are tormentors; and as characters mutate the actors exchange roles.
Sexuality, expressed in language and in surreal, shocking stage effects, becomes nastily embroiled in the horror, carrying with it a strong whiff of Stockholm Syndrome. Scenes are separated by blackouts that plunge us into darkness. The confusion and fascination emphasise the incomprehensibility of the crimes that the piece evokes, as well as forcing us to question our interest in them. We devour the stories, just as we do when they are served to us, sauced with speculation, in the media.
It’s not an experience for the faint-hearted. But it is morally challenging and queasily riveting, and the performances, from a cast in which Nicola Walker, Stuart McQuarrie, Jan Pearson (pictured) and Phil McKee are outstanding, are entirely, absorbingly committed. This is work that disturbingly demands its audience’s complicity, and leaves an indelible stain on the memory.