Beautiful storytelling hides a complex tale of desire in The Lover
- Gareth K Vile
- 31 January 2018
An elegant production but translation from memoir to the stage does not always find a theatricality in the script
This adaptation of Marguerite Duras' The Lover is a collaboration between director Jemima Levick and choreographer Fleur Darkin, and the juxtaposition of dance and storytelling seems to divide their responsibilities clearly. The thrust of the narrative is presented as a spoken word monologue – with occasional dialogues – while the dance provides illustrations of the incidents, especially the more sensual memories of the teenage Duras and her older lover.
There's a sheen of beauty and elegance across the production, from the allusive scenography to the choreography of lovers entwined, but the storytelling is more direct: moving between pre-recorded and live sequences, it wraps the affair in nostalgic and exoticism. There are moments of intensity – when the lover finally speaks for himself, instead of being described by the narrator, or when a conversation about sexual desire emerges from speakers within the auditorium. However, the languid atmosphere is almost alienating; Duras' passion feels removed and the serious issues the play raises – not least Duras' age at the time of the affair – are addressed only slightly.
If the atmosphere is largely evocative and sensual, the descriptions of exotic detail are spoken rather than performed: the script and the bodies of the performers are distanced, telling the same story but in parallel rather than together. The narrative is clear, only the focus is vague: the translation from memoir to the stage does not always find a theatricality in the script: the spoken word and the movement are not happily integrated.