Week 53 at The Lowry, Salford
Guest reviewer: Daniel Shipman
It’s an exciting time to be a theatregoer. Technology is rapidly changing what it is possible to achieve on a stage, and companies like Haut et Court are making full use of these new opportunities with shows like Hikikomori.
The plot revolves around Nils – a teenage boy who decides to lock himself in his room – and his parents, but the plot here takes a back seat to intelligently designed atmosphere. Upon entering the theatre, audience members are given a headset which plays the interior monologue of one of the three characters, but you don’t know which until the show begins.
This lack of narrative or certainty creates a productive disorientation – it allows you to empathise with Nils’ isolation or his parents’ confusion so much more deeply than even the best acting, as you are sincerely feeling those same emotions yourself.
You quickly become invested in your assigned character – knowing only their thoughts and motivations and being forced to guess those of the other characters. This emulates the frustrations of real adolescence. My headphones were linked to Nils, and his justifications made his outlandish behaviour seem almost normal, whilst those listening to other narratives perhaps thought he was a cruel monster to his parents.
The acting is almost secondary to this genius device, but the delicate touch which all three performers apply complements it perfectly. Marion Talotti as the mother is a particular joy to watch. Similarly, Nicholas Thevenet’s score – a gentle hum of electronic rhythms and broken melodies – provides the ideal aural complement to the sparse set (Nicolas Boudier, Joris Mathieu).
Hikikomori is a sonic, visual and theatrical feast – the absolute best of what you want to see when you take a chance on new theatre.