How do we watch people? How much can we really see beneath the mask of a familiar scene?
David Foster Wallace’s collection of sexual and darkly comic short stories does all it can to smash our preconceptions with painfully accurate pictures of vice. What we see in a book ‘possessed by a … vandalizing spirit … that exults in tearing up, stripping down and breaking apart everything it can get its hands on’ (NY Times) are the “hideous” silhouettes behind everyday performances.
By treating the multitude of stories as a point of departure, directors Josh Dolphin and Penny Cartwright have drawn a narrative together from fragments of the comic and deep anxieties that man, woman, psychopath and sex addict share. These are linked to the backbone of the city, in which we feel a shared sense of urban isolation.
There is no single story line, as the directors are not looking to contain or fit Wallace’s multitude of diverse narratives into a series of teaspoon sized sketches. ‘Don’t come expecting a series of monologues’ Josh warns: they are trying to remove the boundaries between audience and character imposed by the rigid interview format used in previous productions. Josh even prefers not to block scenes, since the cast’s involvement actively shapes the tableau of urban hypochondria and vanity they are hoping to create.
So much texture is held in the text’s literary sphere that a loyal recreation has proven difficult. However even after a week of rehearsals their group cohesion and enthusiasm is astounding. It feels presumptive to say it’s all we can expect from such an experienced cast and crew, but their performance – off-script, riotously choreographed and organic – proves that this cast has all the skill and enthusiasm needed to bring the original texture of Wallace’s prose to life.
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men will be playing at the Burton Taylor Studio from the 3rd-7th February.