Brighton Fringe 2008
Venue: Brighton Corn Exchange
Festival: Brighton Fringe
Meet the couple every couple wants to be. Attractive and immaculately turned out,they are the perfect team. Tomorrow they will be in Stockholm, a city where in summer the sun shines 24/7 and, sometimes, there’s perpetual dark. Today is his birthday and she has presents and surprises in store. Treading a fine line between tenderness and cruelty,Stockholm reveals a relationship unravelling. It’s beautiful, but it’s not pretty.
Stockholm is the new creation from well-established physical theatre company Frantic Assembly. Performing at the Brighton Corn Exchange as part of the Brighton Festival, this was a rare example of a truly excellent piece of theatre.
An intensely dark and sexual two hander, performed by Georgina Lamb and Samuel James, this play deconstructs the ‘picture perfect relationship’ and betrays it as a violent mess of lies and remorse.
The play starts with a monologue from Todd, explaining, in the third person, his idyllic relationship with Kali, thus establishing a very well-executed convention that continues throughout the play. Both characters use this device in ways that are often humourous, but as the play wears on, serve to highlight the way the pair distance themselves from a relationship that is in reality a nightmare.
The wonderful set, designed by Laura Hopkins, creates a place in which the couple can inhabit their ‘house that love built,’ making love on the stairs and joyfully doing domestic chores together. But this house is also a betrayer – suddenly it can grab you and pull you up walls as horrendous voices echo in your ear, and the sleek kitchen contains over a hundred knives, lined up along the wall as if in an abbatoir.
The company’s trademark style of physical theatre was used to spectacular effect to show the complex and dangerous nature of Todd and Kali’s relationship. At their first meeting, they devour each other with knives and forks, in a sensual, cannibalistic encounter which ends, tellingly, with Kali towering over Todd, a knife pinning him to the table. The other moments of physicality were equally well played, the most notable being a fight scene between the couple, which was even more horrific for its elegance and choreography – emphasising that this was not a one off, and is something the couple have ‘rehearsed’ many times.
The title of the piece was especially interesting – the programme notes really explained the nature of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and how it is not merely an affliction consigned to the kidnapped – it can be a symptom of an abusive relationship that is almost impossible to be freed from.
The chilling end to the piece, where the couple reveal their bleak and hopeless future, took things a little far. In a show that was generally subtle about its message, and used a lot of movement to put this message across, it was surprising to see such a linear and blatant way of explaining something that could easily have been left unsaid.
However, this being said, the play as a whole was one of the finest pieces of drama I have seen in a long time – the acting was committed and flawlessly rehearsed, the script was a triumph, and all other elements of the production fully supported the overall vision. This show deserves success.