City of Glass
Time Out says
Friendly warning! We're working hard to be accurate. But these are unusual times, so please check that events are still happening.
Visually astonishing adaptation of Paul Auster's noir classic
If you haven’t heard of Paul Auster’s 1987 cult novel ‘City of Glass’ (and until I saw this show, I hadn’t) it’s a tough one to summarise in any kind of pithy fashion. It’s kind of a detective story, but it quickly fractures into mind-boggling layers of reality – and director Leo Warner’s dazzling hi-tech staging picks up and polishes every shard.
It’s totally different from anything else you might see at the theatre. Its inspirations come from the world of comic books and hard-boiled detective fiction, mixed with a hefty dose of literary heavyweights like Cervantes and Milton. So it’s not the show to come to for 3D, rounded characters.
Accordingly, its protagonist Daniel Quinn is a vaguely tormented everyguy, a crime writer who’s struggling to find meaning after losing his wife and kid. He finds it in a real-life case that lands in his lap: a man who spent his childhood trapped alone in a dark locked room, Kaspar Hausar-style, needs his help.
As Daniel Quinn takes on multiple identities in search of some kind of truth, the world around him dissolves from hyper-real, noir-ish New York street scenes into hallucinogenic swirls of galaxies or into densely-scribbled-on notebook pages. Jenny Melville’s set design and Lysander Ashton’s graphic novel-inspired video projections create a subjective city-scape that’s completely engrossing.
Duncan ‘1984’ Macmillan’s adaptation doesn’t shy away from the meatier ideas of Auster’s novel: describing it, you could definitely bandy round words like ‘postmodernism’, ‘psychogeography’ or ‘poststructuralism’. But you don’t need to. Because really, it’s a story about being adrift in a world that defies explanation, and that’s something pretty much everyone can identify with right now.