I was looking forward to CUT. Its description in the blurb – ‘part installation, part theatre poem, part noir thriller’ – promised an intriguing performance. But an hour later, I wished I knew what the point of it all was; comparing that billing to the reality, I felt quite let down.
The audience is made to queue before being led to the venue, which is a ten-minute walk away. Perhaps this was intended to add to the experience of transitioning to an immersive world – the room is set up like an airplane – but for me, it just added to last-minute confusion. An air hostess seats us, gives us ‘instructions’, then amidst total darkness and pinpoints of light takes us through her life. Or her dreams? Or both. I’m not sure.
We learn quickly that she is being stalked, and eventually, the subject of her dreams and the motive of her stalker become a little clearer. Think of Holden Caulfield of Catcher in the Rye. Like him, our narrator is unreliable, and from the mania of being stalked to the confrontational final scene, there is no knowing what is real and what is ‘phony’. She sees an old lady wielding scissors – I could not see how that tied in at all. There’s also a fish being rolled in a tyre.
Some of the jokes simply aren’t funny, including a too-topical reference to planes disintegrating upon impact with water and their flight recorders never being found. These lines are part of a dream and add nothing of value to the plot, so why?
Even so, there are a few elements to celebrate. Hannah Norris’ movements in pitch blackness are flawless; even at such close proximity (she performs in the ‘aisle’ of the ‘plane’) and sometimes in total silence, you just could not hear her move. Her animalistic sexuality and cathartic outbursts pay testament to her skill as an actor, and her character’s ultimate breakdown is well-executed. Importantly for the Fringe, she also dealt with interruptions to the performance very deftly.
But the tying-together of the plot came far too late for me. By the point it all started to make some sense, I was distracted by the cling film (yes!), and my mind had become so accustomed to the jump scares that they just weren’t scary any more. This show missed horror by some margin, and ‘noir thriller’ by quite a bit more; I just hope the impressive Norris has a better script to work with next time.