First featured on TV Bomb, 1 March 2016.
Vanishing Point’s latest show The Destroyed Room, a co-production with Battersea Arts Centre, is a show for anyone who enjoys yelling at Question Time or listening in to other people’s political arguments after one too many pints at the pub. The premise is pretty simple: three characters in a room having a conversation. Over time, gulped glasses of water become gulped glasses of wine, and the chat starts to flow dangerously freely. These are not inconsequential topics of discussion. All the biggies are here: Syria, the refugee crisis, child mortality – and it’s fascinating stuff.
The starting point for director Matthew Lenton was 1978’s The Destroyed Room, an image by photographer Jeff Wall, in which a bedroom has been inexplicably ransacked and destroyed. From the outset this piece is aware of its own theatricality. Two cameramen constantly encircle the three conversationalists – introduced as actors and not characters – with the image relayed to a screen above the action. The audience become voyeurs, privileged to every nuanced reaction, watching extreme close-ups of those before us without permission. It presents an interesting dilemma: to watch the action on screen, through a cinematic and directed lens, or to watch the conversation in its natural form before us. As the “unscripted” conversation progresses, it is difficult not to become acutely aware of missed junctures or tangents: dropped remarks and lines muttered under the breath that just cry out for the catharsis of examination. Each character has a delicate arc, played out against Kai Fischer’s understated but affecting designs.
The Destroyed Room takes a firm kick at our tendency to keep on scrolling past images of unspeakable atrocity, choosing to soothe ourselves with cat videos and pictures of other people’s babies. It is a bold and brave production, confident enough to take risks and pose big ethical questions without fretting over the lack of easily available answers. This is big, electric stuff – go and see it, and then ask yourself some difficult questions.