The Destroyed Room

To me it is significant and empowering that Fergus Linehan, in his second year as Edinburgh Festival director, has chosen to open the drama programme with two complementary pieces from Vanishing Point, Scotland’s foremost independent theatre company, internationally recognised and acclaimed as distinctive and ground-breaking.

For so long our Festival drama programme studiously ignored the work of Scottish Theatre, choosing instead to focus on esoteric drama, such as Noh Theatre from Japan or Hamlet in the language of Turkestan. For an International Festival this is commendable, but what has been so long forgotten is that in August the world beats a path to Edinburgh, and to the world, Scotland is a strange and esoteric place, with its own strange and esoteric culture.

Which brings me to Vanishing Point and its 2 Festival offerings – “Interiors” and “The Destroyed Room”. Both have been around before, but both are worthy of a Festival airing.

“The Destroyed Room” owes much to the format of a TV studio chat show. Two women are brought together to engage in a conversation that starts off with a random question by Barnaby Power, the interrogator. The discussion then evolves and opens out to consider the role of Facebook, our involvement in strangers’ lives, our constant bombardment with information, our voyeuristic reactions, our relentless exposure to horror and tragedy, and how we should or should not be feeling about all this daily involvement in the lives and deaths of others. Just how far can empathy reach? Can endlessly seeing beheadings and ship-wrecked refugees be justified?

Giving the most masterful and natural performances in all this are Elicia Daly and Pauline Goldsmith as the two women on a couch, while Barnaby Power is the host who engages and interacts in a totally professional manner. All this is mercilessly filmed by two camera operators and screened above the set, reminding us that we too are voyeurs.

“The Destroyed Room” takes its title from a 1979 photograph showing a ransacked room that raises questions as to what on earth has happened. As this play goes on the clarity of debate becomes befuddled by hospitality wine, passions are aroused, sensibilities are breached, and tempers are frayed. Meanwhile the beleaguered outside world begins to encroach in a strange and menacing way…

It’s a gripping piece of theatre – topical, relevant, global. It’s a credit to Vanishing Point and to Scottish Theatre on our International Festival platform.

I do hope I can still get a ticket for “Interiors”.


Lyceum until Aug 8th

Photo Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

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