Theatre Review
 

 

Home

 

 

 

Bliss

1

Photo by Marc Brennan

 

By Olivier Choinière

Translated by Caryl Churchill

Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins

 

Royal Court, Jerwood Theatre Upstairs

 

28 March – 26 April, 2008

 

 

 

 

1Couzens

A review byKirsty Harris for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

An audience of Wal-Mart employees sits and looks from the other side of the bathroom mirror. They watch as the stories of Celine, a god-like figure of grace, beauty and compassion, Isabel and Oracle seep into one another; the latter two dirtying the picture-perfect portrayal of the Vegas Queen like smears on a looking glass.

The action is separated from the audience (kitted out in Wal-Mart tabards) by a large rectangular cut-out at the front of the stage so framing the action (set design by Jeremy Herbert). It creates the mirror of which we are the reflection, or is it that we are the reality and the madness in front of us is the reflection? This is getting rather like Alice and her Looking Glass. The frame could also be a photo frame or a border in a magazine – just needing a suggestive comment printed below.

One would think that a sense of location would be important to the story, given the effort to dress the audience appropriately for the Wal-Mart setting. However, the British accents and generally British manner of the performances seem to ignore the location altogether. Perhaps it is simply for the sense of unity that we are all dressed the same; we are one reflection looking back at Oracle but we are also many and this emphasises her isolation from the masses. Or maybe it is a direct way of getting us to connect with the character of Oracle, our name tags are the same as hers. Are we all versions of Oracle, turning ourselves in-side-out with the pain of it all?

The cast are superb in bringing some sort of weight to the chopped and scattered stories that make up the script. With solid characterisation and individual quirks that add bittersweet humour to the sometimes morbid proceedings, Brid Brennan, Justin Salinger and Neil Dudgeon work beautifully as an ensemble of the grotesque, the gossip-hungry and the disturbed. Hayley Carmichael gives a stunning performance as Oracle. She narrates and holds together the different plotlines whilst being the central part in all of them. With the empty look of someone weakened by physical or mental illness she surprises by commanding the other characters and always being obeyed. Carmichael provides the voice of truth in a tangle of tag lines. She brings a hungry relish to some gruesome descriptions, but still retains an air of deep sadness and loneliness which is at the heart of all this fame-obsessed madness.

The piece plays with our celebrity-centred culture and manages to expose the truth of it with wit and originality. Bliss doesn’t go over the tired discussions we see and hear so often in the media about the media, instead Choinière has given us an imaginative and deeply emotive view that uses intricate storytelling to challenge his audience and their own attitude towards private lives spread across the media.

 

1

Photo by Marc Brennan

 

Box Office: 0207565 5000
www.royalcourttheatre.com/booking

The Royal Court Theatre
Sloane Square, London SW1

7:45pm (1hour 20 minutes – no interval)

Mon-Sat 7.45pm
Sat 4pm (from 5 Apr)
Tickets £15 (£10), Mondays All Seats £10
School and HE Groups 8+ £7.50



 

 

 

Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © EXTRA! EXTRA All rights reserved


 

 

Home