FringeReview UK 2022
Written by Lucy Kirkwood and directed by Lucy Morrison, Designer Naomi Dawson, Lighting Designer Anna Watson, Sound Designer Peter Rice, Video Designer Gino Ricardo Green, Movement Director Chi-San Howard, Intimacy and Fight Director Yarit Dor, Assistant Director Zachary Wilcox, Design Assistant Shahaf Beer, Associate Sound Designer Keri Chesser, Stage Manager Lizzie Chapman, Deputy Stage Manager Jen McTaggart, ASM Elle Hutchinson, ASM (Production Period) Ophir Westman, Dresser Ana Webb Sanchez, Set Built by Royal Court Stage Department.
Royal Court Production: Casting Directors Amy Ball & Arthur Carrington, Company Manager Joni Carter, Stage Supervisor Steve Evans & T J Chappell-Meade, Lead Producer Sarah Georgeson, Sound Supervisor Laura Hammond, Production Marius Renning, Lighting Programmer Stephen Settle, Costume Supervisor Lucy Walshaw, Lighting Supervisor Johnny Wilson.
Till July 16th
That Is Not Who I Am. No, smuggled in under wraps Dave Davidson’s debut after 38 years in the security industry really is ‘a slippery thriller’ and maybe something has shifted after those famous playwrights in on it – and quoted saying so – bless Lucy Kirkwood’s Rapture – which bursts out of the book-wrapper.
Because the Home Secretary wants to stop this, says smuggled-in Kirkwood played by Priyanga Burford who narrates, along with Theatre Royal Court screen-statements and bits of Pirandello-on-speed. Which with creatives milling round and Burford haunting the set, sees Kirkwood on stage-exploding form.
As do the young couple out of an upper-storey box-set of a restaurant – tearing a huge rip that serves as metaphor every time the revolve swings round and a face is projected on it: a black hole of info. Jake Davies’ Noah Quilter and Siena Kelly’s Celeste meet in November 2011 on a Guardian blind date, score each other 9 and 9.5, decide it’s 10 and spend the next ten years slowly absorbing each other’s obsessions.
Burford pops up to narrate Alfieri-like moments in between the couple’s intimacy, or pass over years of CCTV like Gibbon does with boring Byzantine emperors. There’s knowing winks in sounds off like clapping for the NHS as chronology jump-cuts.
Kirkwood’s steering an elegant path ‘neither left nor right’ as Noah says – and ends up in the excluded middle. XR doesn’t cut it, but if you add conspiracy theories – and Noah starts on that date with a mild one about 9/11 – then his assertion of surveillance capitalism and the state leads to a form of anarchic info-drop-out that turns the couple gradually into info-feeders. Dangerous YouTube bloggers and influencers of all things the government don’t want you to hear.
Think Novara Media without team expertise and body-swerving lawyers’ letters. Novara like DDN, A World to Win, Squawkbox, even Owen Jones, marinade in an ideological hinterland, hit harder than Kirkwood can here. She rightly rejects most of what we know for what we fear: with her DIY activists whom she keeps innocent of theory. Noah and Celeste have only each other, a few books; and uniquely – switch-off.
Noah’s ex-army techno-fit is a shrewd characterisation. Davies’ plays him as a maverick trained out of comfort-zones, applying his tech logic in a world he refuses to logic him. He’s given a conspiracy-inflected edge, but despite his offstage brother’s addled suggestion of ‘Incel’ it’s exactly that mindset Noah’s refusing.
So gradually all IT and TV’s stripped, NHS nurse Celeste picks up and eco-twists Noah’s thinking. She has that experience that gives the play its title. Kelly’s Celeste is sassy, more quicksilver, more nervy than Davies’ Noah, whose blokeish carapace cracks with depression as they cope with protracted efforts at parenthood. Both Burford-Kirkwood and Kirkwood spin wicked glosses on what a decade – and surveillance – does to lovers.
Compelled to write Maryland – which addresses the murder of Sarah Everard and other women – has intensified Kirkwood’s blistering power. In Rapture she explores the dynamics of intimacy and (often state) violence in a microcosm of threat – barely contained – worthy of Chimerica. Unlike that masterpiece, Rapture is future-oriented, provisional.
Directed in a sashaying one-hour-fifty by Lucy Morrison, Naomi Dawson’s two-storey set revolve of bedroom, living space and kitchen is an exoskeleton of our eavesdropping. Anna Watson’s occasionally spooky lighting is matched by Peter Rice’s sound, studding a decade with events. Gino Ricardo Green’s video of Noah’s and Celeste’s uploads get neatly punch-holed with that tear, Chi-San Howard’s movement and Yarit Dor’s intimacy and fight directing come into their own mainly later on.
The big threat to the state – despite the Quilters ‘scooping’ Partygate – can never speak its name and lands softly; though the fate of such activists is no fiction. The Quilters pose less of a threat than say Novara. Kirkwood’s suggestion though that a group of 10,000 meeting in protest is given media blackout rings chillingly. She rightly pushes a deep-conspiracy state: on press night it leaked out the Times and Mail were sat on to remove an instance of Johnson’s nepotism. Rapture’s theming state surveillance – and fingering the Home Secretary with murderous covert ops – hardly stretches credibility. Kirkwood’s right too to calibrate the casual obsession state actors don when snooping.
Rapture takes this to extremes and a terrific denouement. Carrie Rook’s Stage Manager runs everywhere, Zachary Wilcox pops up as an exceedingly nasty Snooper F12. And there’s more. It confirms Kirkwood as the greatest of younger dramatists. The blazing Maryland has left its mark too, as it should on all of us . Whilst she can’t close a neat circle here Kirkwood instead prophesies what’s in store with savage fury, and no-one’s exempt, least of all her.