Duncan Macmillan, based on Paul Auster's novel
59 Productions, HOME, Lyric Hammersmith
HOME, Manchester 04 March 2017 to 18 March 2017
THERE are, to be sure, two ways (at least) of looking at this strange and magnificent work.
It could be charting the descent into madness of a grief-stricken writer caught up in the lives of people who exist only in his head... or it could all be real, a complex, convoluted story that twists like the twistiest of twisting, turning things.
There is no right way to look at it, which was perhaps novel writer Paul Auster’s intention 30 years ago: this is a man after all who writes himself into his stories and here, in Duncan Macmillan’s equally twisty, often baffling adaptation, has two actors playing one character (and who seems to write most of his characters in pairs, which doesn't make life any easier for the viewer).
Central character Daniel Quinn (Chris New and Mark Edel-Hunt) writes mystery stories. Picking up a wrong number one night he gets involved in the real-life case of Peter Stillman Jr, who believes his father, also Peter Stillman (both played by Jack Tarlton), has come to kill him.
In fact Stillman Sr is a harmless kook, and the story is soon abandoned to focus on the story's real purpose: to watch Quinn, who assumes the name Paul Auster (not to be confused with the other Paul Auster character, who also narrates) – into obsession and madness.
With me so far? Truth is you won’t find any clarity by watching to the end; just more confusion as Quinn's grip on reality disappears.
But strange though the story is, the company behind it, 59 Productions, continues the work of Leeds-based tech geniuses imitating the dog, whose projection-based set can offer almost any scene on any stage (as we saw in the Oldham Coliseum’s Hound of the Baskervilles and The Mist in the Mirror in recent years).
The boffins of 59 Productions also play with the stage space in incredible ways, projecting props and backdrops - both static and moving; doors and windows both opaque and translucent, interiors and exteriors, on the bare walls of a dingy, two-room set continually otherwise seen in a noirish half-light.
The evening is short (100min, no interval) wonderfully slick and frequently startling - and until I saw the musical version of Bat Out Of Hell a few days later, perhaps the most technically accomplished set I’ve seen. Now it's only one of the top two.
Expect to be mystified and blown away at the same time.
Reviewer: Paul Genty