4 stars ****
Royal Lyceum Theatre
NORMALLY, four stars above a Scotsman review means that a show is recommended to our readers. In truth, though, I would recommend Vanishing Point’s Wonderland only to those rare, brave spirits who are ready to spend 90 minutes in a grim exploration of one of the ugliest aspects of 21st century culture.
Loosely inspired by the disturbing imagery of Alice In Wonderland, this latest show in director Matthew Lenton’s series of international works involves a journey through the computer screen, into the darkest reaches of internet pornography. John is a middle-aged married man increasingly obsessed with sadistic online porn; his daughter Alice has split from her parents over her determination to become a porn actress. And through nightmare layers of darkness and illusion, shadowed by filmed images and live video, the two gradually approach one another, until the story reaches an almost laughably gruesome conclusion.
In a sense, what Matthew Lenton is producing is no longer living theatre. In overcoming differences of language, he has developed a theatre of soundless voyeurism that robs actors of the chance to connect directly with audiences; what emerges instead is a visual and aural poem – stunningly designed here by Kai Fischer and Mark Melville – that dwells relentlessly on a single note of alienation and despair, defying every rule of drama.
Yet in the end, it also compels us to look at what is actually going on today in the erotic imaginations of millions, and at the industry of abuse spawned by the demand for such images. Its story is of a naive man who fails to resist the reductive lies about male sexuality implicit in the porn he uses, and of a confused girl who believes that this commercialised vileness represents freedom. And if resistance to such lies has to begin somewhere, then Matthew Lenton’s brave and relentless show may just be one of those starting-places; bleak, terrible, and necessary.
Until 1 September