Ovalhouse, London – until 22 July 2017
An Injury is a story in true Kieran Hurley style. It’s second-person narration, direct and sharp – this could easily be the precluding chapter to Heads Up from a different set of perspectives. That was about the end of the world. This is about being watched, being revolutionary and being in the firing line. It’s also about pushing that button, the big red one that destroys lives in the name of national security. You watch them in order to keep yourself safe. Zoom out.
The difference between these productions is in the cast – Heads Up is just Hurley from behind a desk whereas An Injury tries to be more expansive, more inclusive. Four narrators switch between characters with increasing ease – nobody is one single character because these characters represent more than their individual identities. But with extra people comes the extra pressure to perform and extra complications to synchronise. It takes more time to build the rhythm and draw the audience in than in Hurley’s monologue. Zoom out.
If Hurley’s writing is immediately recognisable in the narrative, then Alex Swift’s direction is immediately recognisable on stage. After their collaboration on Heads Up, Swift instantly injects the pace that An Injury demands. It feels frantic, but it’s actually bubbling with energy; it feels scattered, but it’s actually addressing all angles at once. It resembles organised chaos, but every dynamic is judged and timed. Zoom in.
Joe is a whistle-blower, he pushes the buttons that snuff out life. Don’t worry, on the screen it looks just like a dog. But this dog only has two legs… Swift and Hurley throw game-changing details into this show without emphasis, there as hidden gems for the audience to grab onto before the action pans across to another story. Danny, the journalist desperate for a scoop; Morvern, the data entry clerk who is numb to the names that are being extradited from the country. And Asma, the girl whose story is never told in second person. Loss of data.
Joe notices the light of God, a red laser that marks its target before the drone he operates drops a bomb. Oliver Townsend paints this line out onto the floor, a clever detail that isn’t made use of sufficiently. In order to turn An Injury from a driving story into an expansive production, the use of set must be more meaningful. There’s nothing wrong with simplicity, but it must all tie in. Zoom in.
“An injury to one is a concern to all”. The actors get increasingly frustrated and agitated as the stories continue to lose data – no one knows what the endings are. If they can’t take anymore, or if they think another perspective is more intriguing, they zoom out. Reset and begin again. Chapters in a book, a series of individual tales that intertwine. In the end, the contrary happens – you expect a cliff-hanger and you get a barrage of endings, all absurd but strangely tied to reality. Zoom out.
For all its cleverness, An Injury feels a bit like a work in progress. The actors read the narrative from books that conceal the script and are at times unsure of their cues. But the concept and the material marks out Hurley and Swift’s style – fast but focused, a jigsaw that slots the pieces together in an unorthodox order. Loss of data.