Insomniac Productions, Clair-de-Luz

Review in Issue 6-3 | Autumn 1994

In the Old Timber Yard, Insomniac installed a replica cinema auditorium, complete with foyer and bored attendant. The ‘screen’ consisted of a pair of sliding doors which opened and closed to reveal the action. With the doors fully opened, we were treated to a cinemascope panorama recreating the flatness of widescreen movies. The sets moved to imitate tracking and zoom shots. For close-ups the doors were moved nearer together so that only a detail of the action was visible. There were even ‘overhead shots’, for example a scene in bed, where the actress stood against sheet and pillow, one arm behind her head, the other holding a sheet around her – simple, but totally convincing. The lighting was superb, and to add that final touch of authenticity the actors mimed to a pre-recorded soundtrack.

In imitating film, the traditional audience/performer relationship was denied, but it was still very much a live performance: the tension present was like that of a peepshow – the audience and actors were aware of each other, but the latter had steadfastly to pretend to be oblivious to anything outside the action. Despite its technical brilliance, the show was let down by the script. The story concerns a former usherette (Clair of the title) who returns after many years to her film world. In the first scene we see her falling into the film (like Dorothy into the land of Oz), whence she takes up with the film-bound characters she previously deserted. The themes explored – the nature of reality, the shaping of our thoughts and memory by the conventions of cinematic images – were perfect for this self-reflective piece, but the action and dialogue were wilfully arty and opaque. Also, the pauses between ‘shots’ were too long (unfortunately emphasising one advantage of film over theatre). Overall, though, a wonderfully inventive, audacious and thought-provoking evening.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. May 1994

This article in the magazine

Issue 6-3
p. 23