Mark Murphy’s V-TOL – Out of this World – London

Mark Murphy's <I>Out of this World</I>.<br />© Mark Murphy’s V-TOL. (Click image for larger version)
Mark Murphy’s Out of this World.
© Mark Murphy’s V-TOL. (Click image for larger version)

Mark Murphy’s V-TOL
Out of this World

London, Peacock Theatre,

Mark Murphy was an established name on the dance scene, but seems to have been involved more in event staging of late. Out of this World is his attempt at a hybrid show, part straight theatrical, part spectacular, with video projections and aerial work. It wants to be a seat-of-your-pants psychological chiller and a heartbreaking love story. It is neither. Ambition seems to outstrip ability at pretty much every turn.

The premise is that we’re inside the mind of Ellen (Sarah Swire), a woman in a medically induced coma. Memories and dreamworld scenarios combine in a Groundhog Day-like cacophony – massive projected images of breaking glass hint at why she’s in this state and shout “shattered reality” at us. Just in case we are in any doubt about what is happening, Ellen breaks the fourth wall to ask, “Is anyone else confused?” and “helpfully” explains things. Later she comes back to ask us to remind her what her name is. It’s a mark of how uninvolved we are with this character, who has done nothing to earn our sympathy, that the audience remains mutinously silent.

So it goes on. We flit back and forth in time. Ellen is a singer, we learn, who was married five weeks ago to Anthony (Scott Hoatson) – we don’t tell her his name when she asks us, either. They’ve been in a car crash, and in her comatose state Ellen has somehow learnt what has happened to Anthony. This is supposed to create a sense of jeopardy – will she choose to live without her love? – but the storyline is so sparse and unengaging that it falls flat. The depictions of Ellen and Anthony’s love for each other, expressed through cliché-soaked, bad-TV-movie dialogue, are entirely unmoving. A late flashback to Ellen’s admission to hospital, which you sense is supposed to be recreating the high-tension thrills of an episode of ER, ends up being a couple of people poking at Swire while a woman with a heavy Spanish accent spouts medical jargon for what feels like ten minutes.

For me there’s nothing profound here. Swire spends her time screaming, shouting, crying or spouting the kind of intense, self-absorbed banalities of the average Facebook post. The soundtrack tries just as unsubtly as the script to push buttons, and fails for being so obvious. Really, once it’s been established this unexceptional couple have been in an accident, how worked up can we get about their situation? The movement of the piece is unremarkable, sometimes plain clumsy, and the touted aerial work is far from jaw-dropping. Others might see things differently but, as you can see, this was anything but a good night for me.

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