Edinburgh Fringe 2012
‘The Stranger’, Albert Camus’ absurdist novel is brought to life by a stunning lone performance by Guilherme Leme. Light design and sound add an intense atmostphere to a production that manages both to remain faithful to the source material and add a new level of depth.
In a room filled with thick smoke stands a chair in a spotlight with a jacket and trousers slung over the back. Enter Meursault in his undershirt with news that his mother has died. Camus’ Meaursault is a French Algerian indifferent to the world around him. He becomes involved in his neigbour’s affairs which lead to his murdering an Arab on the beach. His trial follows and the sentence of death, but Meursault remains emotionally detatched.
With the whispered French as the audience enter, and the Gallic accent from the swarthy Leme, this production sticks to the French Algerian roots. The novel is very well adapted for stage by Morten Kirkskov and the story telling, with a little help from a change in light here and there, paints a vivid picture of Algiers and the people in Meursault’s life. ‘The Stranger’ is a work of big themes; nihilism, social detatchment, colonialism and it remains though-provoking in this theatrical form.
Guilherme Leme is astounding in this both in telling the story in an evocative and well-paced manner and in acting out various characters. The changes he makes to show the sanctimoniousness of the priest or the machismo of Raymond are subtle, restrained and all the more brilliant because of this.
What I felt was most impressive is that Leme manages to wring pathos from Meursault , a seemingly cold and detatched character. Yet here we feel sympathy for him as he is on trial, being hounded by the prosecution for not crying at his mother’s funeral and we share his anger when he confronts the smug and self-satisfied priest.
The set comprises of a solitary chair on a square black mat in a spotlight, isolated and bleak. A change in lights and the stage burns with the midday Algerian sun or becomes Meursault’s prison cell. The staging of the shooting is especially effective- the lights so bright that the audience almost shares Meursault’s sunstroke. Cues are very slick indeed.
This play is better than the book. Meursault becomes relatable, understandable and to some extent pitiable. The absurdity of his trial gains weight in Leme’s gifted hands. Applause turns to hushed awe as he raises one fist in salute to the audience. An incredibly powerful performance.