Dolls – National Theatre of Scotland

To the Tramway last night for Dolls a production from the National Theatre of Scotland.

It is perhaps singularly appropriate that a production adapted for the stage from a film turns into such a mixed media event as this. Not so much a play as a ballet with a few words. Not so much a musical as band-led soundtrack. Not so much a series of sketches but sparse interlocking stories told as much through their visual staging as through dialogue and words.

Is there a visual image which captures the essence of a relationship? Can unrequited love best be expressed in speech or in a pattern of ever repeatingĀ  iconic scenes?

The three stories represented here are all of people who do not receive the love they hope for. Keiran gazes at pop-star Mimi’s image longing for her to return his gaze. Maggie keeps on making sandwiches every week for a boyfriend who does not return for so many years that when he does, she does not recognise him. Jacob and Ruth are tied together for all time by an incident in youth for which he will never atone and which led to her attempted suicide and subsequent brain damage. Each of these relationships incapable of satisfaction. Each haunted with a sparse beauty.

The memory that lingers in this piece is of the visual images which were created. We are getting a lot of heavily choreographed movement on the Scottish stage at the moment – the letters from home in Black Watch, the agricultural scenes in Scots Quair. Similar movement puntuacted Dolls from start to finish.

A chirpy score from an on stage band kept things moving. Nonetheless, the hour and twenty minutes never seemed rushed. The result was an elegaic mood. A strange peace generated from so much unfulfilled desire.

Although Dolls took its stories from a Japanese film of the same name, there seemed to be other references woven in, not least in strong resonances with the film Scenes of a Sexual Nature. Episodic tales of unconsumated love yet to be satisfied. A woman on a bench waiting. Always waiting.

This is experimental work. Dramatic haiku. AnĀ  experiment that paid off.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Last night tonight)