Lavinia Greenlaw: Audio Obscura
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Perpetual eavesdroppers will delight in Lavinia Greenlaw’s sound piece currently alighting at St Pancras International. The recording, written by Greenlaw (a celebrated poet and author) and read by actors, supposedly reveals the internal monologues of strangers, offering snippets of the secret stories behind the anonymous faces we pass by in the bustle of busy life. A cross between radio drama and social realism, ‘Audio Obscura’ is more hypnotic than it first sounds – these muttered confessions might even make you miss your train.
After collecting headphones from Artangel’s kiosk in St Pancras (look out for it between Pain Quotidien and M&S), and leaving a credit card or mobile phone deposit, you take away the 30-minute recording and can roam around the station. The piped-in voices mingle with reality and people in the crowd soon become unwitting actors in Greenlaw’s parallel universe.
This co-commission with Manchester International Festival (where it was first staged at Manchester Piccadilly station) is an exploration of self-observations as if overheard: fragmented characters weave in and out of a chimeric narrative of private lives that you can only half understand. The words catch you off-guard, disconcerting: there’s the bluntness of the man who ‘can smell myself… It’s disgusting’, or the woman, who after 30 years of marriage has discovered her husband is a ‘sick, lying animal… tickets to Kenya already booked.’ Greenlaw has managed to marry her talent for writing with the artistic tradition of depicting the ‘faces in the crowd’ that can be traced back to the impressionists. ‘Audio Obscura’ is a skilful and moving experience: don’t miss it.