A new play in London:
Relocation, relocation, relocation. Every aspect of Anthony Neilson’s extraordinary production of his new play is disrupted and unsettling. At its centre are a child abductor and murderer, on the loose and on the prowl, continually changing addresses and identities, and his ex-lover, a woman who half-knew what he was up to and could never acknowledge it; she, too, now has to duck and dive and disguise.
Relocated evokes the dungeon of Josef Fritzl and the Soham of Maxine Carr. It has terrifying Hitchcockian moments of a kind you rarely see in the theatre: a domestic spat is followed by an embrace, during which drops of blood drip through the ceiling on to a man’s back. It has an intricate atmosphere, no doubt helped by Neilson’s practice of developing his plays with actors during rehearsal. Darkness is never entirely dispelled from the stage, but it’s broken, in Chahine Yavroyan’s eerie, intimate lighting scheme by blue shafts of moonlight through an open window, the gleam from a fridge door or the single flame of a lighter. The stage is divided from the audience by a just perceptible sheet of gauze; the action might be taking place in a meat safe.
The fear in this gripping play is complicated; the perspective switches. You can be frightened by the possibility of attack or chilled by the idea that you could collude with an attacker. The audience is confronted by the beefy charms of a murderer, who doesn’t dominate merely by threat and fear; you watch horror becoming domesticated. The latest press release from the Royal Court claims that audiences are being so disturbed by Relocated that an extra usher has been brought in to deal with people who have to leave in mid-performance.