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La Musica at Young Vic, London

October 14, 2015

ArtsTheatre | by Harry Seymour

Originally a play written by a classic figure in the world of existentialist literature, Marguerite Duras, La Musica can now be seen in this contemporary, 21st century incarnation thanks to Jeff James at London’s Young Vic theatre. In terms of what the play relates to, without wanting to give too much away, it mainly deals with the interaction of the fairly well-to-do couple Anne-Marie and Michel (portrayed in this version by Emily Barclay and Sam Troughton, respectively) three years on from their divorce, and how their relationship has been, and still is affected by this separation.

La Musica at Young Vic
La Musica at Young Vic

At least that’s how it appears on the surface, but the dialogue between the two quickly takes you from a distracted exchange of pleasantries and small talk to an ever-increasingly honest appraisal of where it went wrong and who was at fault for what. Interestingly their conversations fascinate on a factor that perhaps isn’t so commonly addressed in such circumstances: why. Some of the more captivating moments of this rendition of La Musica are displayed in the insatiable demands of Michel of his former lover, as even in this moment in which their separation couldn’t be clearer there is the familiar, insecure paranoia that creeps into the most steadfast of relationships.

As the exchange between the two intensifies, so does the audience’s interaction with an immersive second act prompting audience members to move from their initial and typical positioning to one that surrounds the two focal points of this conversation.

While this allowed the conversation to take on a new dynamic, and certainly allowed the audience to zero in on this able performance from these two actors, it did expose a particular weakness to the play. There were, at times, noticeably fleeting moments in which the volume and apparent emotion of the exchanges were betrayed by a lack of expression on the part of the performing duo in their reactions. Were such abrasively personal questions and assumptions slung between two partners in real life, then one would expect an equally interactive reaction, something which was not always forthcoming.

Often at times, it was also too apparent that the language of this play was formed out of a translation as the coherency of feeling in what was being said tripped itself up somewhat. That said the translation shouldn’t be considered a massive stumbling block, as there were moments of profoundness and rawness that only conversational language can produce.

Ably performed by two credible actors and interesting enough, in the same morbid way that draws the attention of strangers to the unfortunate and the uncomfortable, this production overcomes its shortfalls and makes for an engaging, albeit slightly bleak outlook on the relationships in which love and genuine passion are entwined.

By Sion Ford

La Musica runs until the 17th October