Who Are You?

October 26, 2021 | By More

★★★☆☆      Timely

Sound Stage (Lyceum/Pitlochry Festival Theatre online): Fri 29 – Sun 31 Oct 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

Who Are You? – the last in the series of audio presentations from the Lyceum and Pitlochry Festival Theatre – is a strange piece both in atmosphere and in execution. Philosophically weighty but artistically less convincing, it has an initial impact that it cannot sustain.

In Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play, Vivian, who has retired to the countryside in what appears to be the West Highlands, is discomfited by the appearance in her cottage of a Presence, seemingly not human but not recognisably animal, as outside a storm gathers in more than one sense.

Georgie Glen (right) with Saskia Ashdown (above) and Angela Ness (below).

There is something almost desperately timely about this play, whose message – that we are destroying the planet through blind anthropocentrism and wilful ignorance of the climate emergency – is an urgent one, demanding to be heard.

Unfortunately, this is not necessarily enough on its own to make for a satisfying artistic experience. The initial set up is intriguing, and the story makes for a cohesive environmental and philosophical parable. However, like most parables, its directness and absence of narrative development means that it is best expressed succinctly.

Although a short piece – less than fifty minutes in total – it nevertheless starts going round in circles well before its conclusion. This impression is reinforced by the continual use of Nicolette Macleod’s music, which is effective on first hearing but becomes much less so through overuse.

grace and conviction

However, there is no shortage of craft on display. Georgie Glen as the frightened, believably inconsistent, self-justifying Vivian has a great weight to carry as a character that is being used to stand for all humanity, but she does it with considerable grace and conviction. Saskia Ashdown makes the enigmatic Presence a substantial and arresting figure.

There is also poetry and humour in Wertenbaker’s script, which is brought out by the sensitive direction of Amy Liptrott. Real atmosphere is engendered by Paul Cargill’s sound design and Louis Blatherwick’s recording – elements that have been remarkably strong throughout this series of plays.

There is certainly enough in the production to sustain interest, even it is never as fascinating as the first few minutes suggests it might be.

Running time: 48 minutes without interval
Royal Lyceum/ Pitlochry Festival Theatre online
Friday 29 – Sunday 31 October 2021.
Fri/Sat: 7pm; Sunday: 4pm.

Information and tickets: Book through the Lyceum
Book through Pitlochry Festival Theatre

ENDS

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