The Lowry, Salford Quays
Guest reviewer: Ciaran Ward
With In the Vice Like Grip of It, IVO and Routes North have created a powerful piece of theatre that explores the strained relationship which both the state and the citizens share. Through the medium of ‘Him’ and ‘Her’, we realise that contemporary surveillance may not be as beneficial as it first seems, despite the dependence of it that has arisen from a post-9/11 world. After watching this play, we come to ask ourselves ‘Is constant observation an infringement of our privacy, and most importantly, our human rights?’
Leigh Kelly and Jo Tyabji portray a couple who have just moved into their new house and are anticipating the arrival of a baby. Life is good, that is, until things are seen for how they really are: ‘Him’ is revealed to be an overzealous safety fanatic, choosing to install CCTV equipment to monitor his home. In this scenario, we see how ‘Him’ abuses this power to spy on ‘Her’, paralleling the methods that the state uses to maintain security, whilst also learning how this negatively affects the life of ‘Her’.
The contrast between a normal day for the couple and the moments in which ‘Her’ shares her innermost thoughts and feelings is effectively achieved through use of careful lighting techniques, specifically designed by Hannah Blamire and aided by Ivan Mack. Bright lights during the main narrative of the play suppose everything is innocent, whilst the spotlight on the table during the monologues of ‘Her’ eradicate this – nothing is as it seems. The eerie atmosphere already established is complemented by the ubiquitous presence of a buzzing noise; moments of tension appear to be fuelled by it and the audience are immersed in the intensity too.
Despite the edgy mood that prevails throughout, there are interspersed moments of humour that manage to break it and even induce the most stubborn of people to laugh. Physical theatre is also performed several times too: a testament to the proficiency of the actors who evidently display a natural chemistry during their performance.
For a play that evokes a feeling of uncertainty in this age of ever-advancing technology and regular surveillance, it is still able to equip you with many intriguing thoughts and provide you with a good deal of entertainment, especially for something you may not usually consider watching.
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