The Sound of My Voice
Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 7 Jun
Most people live a life torn between the conformities of consumerism and some more primal urge for happiness, yet we only really notice this schism when a person goes off the rails. One such catastrophe occurs in Ron Butlin’s novel, here adapted by director Jeremy Raison, in which a man seemingly enjoying the good life bourgeois culture brings is caught at the end of an unravelling process that heavily involves the very material success he boasts in life.
Our protagonist, a successful executive working for a biscuit company (Billy Mack) is followed through a week of his life in which the patience and forbearance of his wife (Rebecca McQuillan), the bonhomie of his work colleagues and the adoration of his children all amount to nothing as he descends into an alcohol fuelled apocalypse. This is far more than a simple mid-life crisis; we watch as one increasingly nauseating all-day drinking schedule follows another and as delusion and hallucination create a series of increasingly alarming situations, some the product of his emotionally attenuated affluence, others relating to an unresolved relationship with his psychologically abusive father.
Raison’s production piles up the stress nicely in front of Jason Southgate’s mirrored wall design, complete with an appropriately dominant liquor cabinet. The Stalls Studio’s confined spaces work nicely with the relentless claustrophobia that is plainly the major psychological issue facing the central character. The sense of pure accumulation, as each drunken vomiting stupor is followed by more booze in the morning is powerful enough to put the late Boris Yeltsin on the Band of Hope – you’ll feel like, but be unable to take, a drink after this one, I assure you. More importantly, this piece questions many basic assumptions about the redemptive power of a Better Homes and Gardens lifestyle. It’s all set off by the desperate energy of Mack’s performance, with good support from McQuillan in a series of roles. You need to be ready for it, but this is a kind of Lost Weekend for the post-Thatcher generation.