The first play, Bliss, is a tale of celebrity obsession in contemporary culture, in which three supermarket workers spend their lunch hour recounting the latest news of their favourite singer, Celine. The characters stand facing the audience, each within their own spotlight, basking in the imagery of Celine’s final concert.
The stream of speech is fraught with constant interruptions as the characters battle to narrate the story verbatim, showing a real strength of ensemble amongst the actors with precise execution of the dialogue’s natural rhythm, overlapping and obstructing superbly. The text, translated by Caryl Churchill, benefited tremendously from this style.
As the content of Celine’s recent news turns to her miscarriage in graphic detail, the tempo and excitement of the story remains the same, eerily exposing the lack of distinction between real-life tragedy and banal celebrity worship. This is blended with an unnerving subtlety with the events of one of the employee’s actual life that takes the play into unexpected territory. Bliss is an uncomfortable look at the veneer of others’ lives and the detachment that it creates within our own when its observation substantiates actual existence.
The second part of Andy Arnold’s double bill, Mud is a look at a ‘red-neck’ love triangle where the central woman, Mae, tries to escape the confines of a relationship with her “sort-of-step-brother Lloyd”. The allure of educated Henry seems to be an escape from the asinine existence she has with Lloyd. This transpires to be untrue and the dream of escape becomes stronger.
The performance displays the entrapment of Mae within the farmhouse shack as she battled to better herself and battles the impotent advances of Lloyd. It is both tragic and at times very funny, without too much emphasis being placed on the lumbering idiocy of the characters.
At the heart of the play is essentially a battle of the sexes; Mae represented the struggle against male dominance with an alarming candour that is beguiling to watch.
The pairing of the plays seemed to balance each other very well and certainly left me excited as to what the Tron would be offering in the future.