Fascinating if slightly vague show about the fascination of modern atrocities
We’re watching ‘Newsnight’ (or something similar) being recorded live in a fancy living room. The topic of debate is how we respond to human suffering abroad – only the conversation keeps stalling. That might be down to the distracting presence of a studio audience, the copious amounts of wine consumed by all three participants, or the imposing video feed that flickers overhead. Whatever the reason, this debate is veering wildly off track – and we’ve only ourselves to blame.
‘The Destroyed Room’ is an elegantly constructed piece of theatre (you wouldn’t expect anything less from theatre-poets Vanishing Point) but it feels a little hazy. There are heaps of interesting ideas in here: the strange frisson we get watching those ISIS videos, the horrific images folded into our Facebook feeds and the way we anaesthetize our shock (another pinot anyone?). But despite these great nuggets of conversation - led by smug interviewer Barnaby Power – Matthew Lenton’s rippling show never quite compels.
The live video feed concept feels patchy. In one arresting scene, a nervous woman played by Elicia Daly describes the guilty pleasure she gets from watching a video of a man stand still, as a tsunami sweeps towards him. The camera zooms in on Daly’s face and – tellingly – it’s her reaction that really grabs us. It’s a brilliantly complex moment but, for the most part, the video feed works in tandem with the stage action and adds surprisingly little.
There’s so much more bubbling away here - if only the dialogue would die down. It’s only in the closing scenes when Vanishing Point, normally an image-led company, let the visuals (designed by Kai Fischer) do the talking. A video of a refugee boat flickers on the living room walls, which have become saturated with water. In an image that is as disturbing as it is beautiful, the white walls drip, shrivel and slide away into the darkness.