There seems to be an obsession with water at the Young Vic recently. Audiences for The Beauty Queen of Leenane had to brave a wall of water to get to their seats; children where drenched in And the Rain Falls Down, and now there is a watery set for I Am The Wind. Perhaps Thames Water should be approached as a new season sponsor.
I am The Wind is a truly international collaboration, an English Premiere of a Norwegian work by a French director – Jon Fosse’s original text has been translated by Simon Stephens and the whole is directed by Patrice Chereau.
On a vast empty beach of a stage, half flooded, a man enters soaking wet and barely conscious, his companion shares his jumper and a slow, stilted conversation ensues. One man talks of sailing his boat and the other reluctantly agrees to go on a voyage. They sail, they eat, the drink, the boat goes further out into the deeper ocean and one man returns to shore. Much like the ripple lighting effect that sweeps across the Young Vic auditorium, it’s a subtle text. There is much ambiguity in the piece. What is the relationship between the two characters, only named The One and The Other.
How much is real and how much imagined? What was the event that triggered the action? Sadly these questions are never answered in a production that asks much of an audience to answer themselves. While theatre often works best when it challenges an audience to work with the piece to gain a deeper understanding, rather than just sit as passive observers, it does require a strong script to engage the mind. Here, I Am The Wind falls down. Fosse’s and Stephens’ text does little to engage. There are strong echoes of Pinter and also Becket’s Waiting For Godot here, long pauses, stilted dialogue and unnatural dialogue. Much like Godot, much of the piece is waiting for something to happen. It never does.
This lack of narrative or clarity of plot does make it hard to engage or care for either character; in fact we never really get to understand anything of substance about either. Tom Brooke and Jack Laskey do try their best with the limited material and there is a touching simplicity in their performances as well as a strong chemistry between the two.
Richard Peduzzi’s set is a inventive use of the space and creates the only real moments of drama in the evening, combining motion and water for a visually impressive vista. Sadly Patrice Chereau’s direction doesn’t match the motion of the set and seems oddly static given the movement in the piece. For a short play of only 65 minutes, the pace at time seems deadly slow and hinders any growth of dramatic tension.
Fans of Pinter or Godot may find enjoyment in I Am The Wind but one suspects many will find this a bit of a damp squib that they cant wait to blow over.
Disclaimer: This is a review of a preview performance on 5th May 2011. The show’s official press night is 10 May and changes may be made before then.
Photo: Tom Brooke, Jack Laskey in I Am The Wind. Photo by Simon Annand