Destroy, She Said
By Marguerite Duras, Directed by Claudia Osborne
Static. Stylised. Neither ordinary or dramatic.
Time. Dream. The days go by, but people are always somewhere else. Eroticism. Violence.
Lovers trade places. They're married but just met. They met here but already knew each other.
Ferment. Destruction. Place. Undisclosed. Only one escapes. One enters, or was she already there?
Madness. The forest. Tearing her mind to pieces. Making her passive.
Confusion, menace, impending doom. How to stage a close-up – like, a real close-up? Passivity. Action. Reaction. Montage.
Middle Class. Intellectualism. Fusion. Three people become one, but also reliant on each other.
Are we residents? I want to touch Elizabeth’s hair.
Why do I feel I am holding the playing card?
Can someone answer that telephone?
French drama film Détruire, dit-elle (Destroy, She Said) was directed and written by French novelist Marguerite Duras in 1969 based on her novel of the same name. Skilled and as daring as a post modernist, polymath Duras possibly hasn’t had the attention she deserves. Perhaps, because she is a woman? Another singular woman – director Claudia Osborne – of FERVANT, takes us through an opaque waking dream, translating this work to the stage. With the reopening of the 25A space after 2 years of theatre closure and the pandemic, my mood was already heightened. Stepping back into a space in which I know well filled me with both nostalgia and memory. This unconventional work certainly invites practitioners to think beyond the usual narrative dramas and normality of known relationships.
An outstanding Grace Smibert is an extraordinary, intriguing presence. Her performance of the unhinged (?) Elizabeth haunts me still. Her physicality, long stare, and girlish laugh would be at home in a David Lynch film but are entirely her own. When and where can we see her again? Supported by Adrian Daff as the minx Alissa, Andreas Lohmeyer as the repressed Max Thor, Tommy Misa as husband Bernard and a charismatic, enigmatic Gabriel Alvarado as Stein. These are performances built around the body and are imaginatively supported by movement consultant Danielle Micich. There is nothing to dislike or even like about this experience. It’s a feeling one must pass through that leaves a residue of having drifted through a strange fog where amplified actors’ voices slide past on the air.
Exemplary sound design by Angus Mills (I want to hear more!) adds to the off-kilter and unsettled mood. Two other designers – Grace Deacon (set and costume) and Kelsey Lee (Set, Costume and Lighting design) complete the strong team who have all gone to a lot of work. The lighting design in particular is sophisticated and detailed and with its odd timings, colours flashes and washes demonstrate a deft hand and dramaturgical nous. It’s all very existential, its makes no sense and yet contains all sense. At 75 minutes in the theatre it’s worth a look especially if you’re keen on embracing theatrical voices making the old new again.