Leon and Juliet are brother and sister. Juliet and Ian are lovers. Leon, Juliet and Ian live together in the middle of nowhere. Leon has an obsession with digging holes (in search of what, we are never quite sure). The home is falling to pieces—Ian in all his sweetness doesn’t appear to mind, whilst Juliet bites her lip and gets on with life. The house is transformed into a single space (bathroom-cum-dining room-cum-kitchen), solely defined by missing strips in the carpet where walls supposedly used to be. One night a not-so-strange stranger comes through the door. There are canaries.
It is difficult to breathe during this play as you never really know when it would be appropriate. All four roles are performed with an intensity that would burn holes into concrete (mildly softened by Ian’s gullibility), and yet I found myself erratically giggling at the barbed, black humour that thankfully lightens the mood somewhat. The notion of forced exposure seems essential to this play, elevated by a hyper-realism expressed through stifled domesticity. A bath is poured within the first ten minutes and over the course of the evening each cast member takes a dip; a fish is gutted, steamed and devoured before us; the roof starts to leak under the barrelling sound of heavy rain.
Andrew Foster’s stress on intimacy carries on from direction to design, a remarkable meeting of realism and abstraction. The audience sits on either side of the living room, the exquisite meticulous attention to detail alienated by the sight of an audience directly beyond. The effect is both haunting and engaging, as the ‘realism’ is performed on stage whilst the reality stares straight back.
Purely in practical terms, the play at times verged on losing pace through extended silences, and the odd line was lost due to the sheer vastness of Circa One. Nevertheless, The Lead Wait is a tantalising sensory experience of sight, smell, and sound that suspends its audience for eighty breathless minutes of harrowing discovery.
The Lead Wait
By Jo Randerson
14 May – 11 June at Circa One