Microcosm at the Soho Theatre
The crippling angst of paranoia is a suspense thriller staple. As fear and doubt cloud the senses, distorting reality and beginning the slippery slope of moral decline even the cosy confines of home can be pilfered by external forces, transforming contentment into deadly neuroses.
In a style befitting a Shakespearean tragedy Microcosm explores the downfall brought about by manic obsession and engrossing fear. Young, successful Alex has just bought his own flat and is looking forward to a bright future with his girlfriend Clare. Yet when his new neighbour Philip professes vile distain for the young “yobs” and “hooligans” who loiter on their street the seeds of doubt are sown, turning Alex’s concerns for safety into fear and eventually lunacy.
Philip McGinley is brilliant as the 21st century tragic hero, perfectly displaying Alex’s metamorphosis from content young professional to crazed manic. Jenny Rainsford gives a tremendous performance as Clare, whose cries of sanity towards her boyfriend ring with pity. John Lightbody’s Philip artfully toys the boundary between geniality and callousness: a disquieting presence, his vicious views against the young jar uncomfortably with his wry jokes, while Christopher Brandon’s police officer brilliantly captures the frustratingly inutile presence of the modern day police whose authority seems held in place merely by their uniform.
Director Derek Bond builds suspense marvellously as the sounds of My Fair Lady’s On the Street Where You Live become increasingly warped and distorted, echoing Alex’s evermore fraying mental state. Corrugated windows waveringly fragment the “hoodies” who menacingly press against the glass, while Matt Hartley’s astute script moves us fluidly between understandings, disagreements, insanity and reason.
More than just a Hitchcock-esque thriller, Microcosm contains truths about British society – specifically London where contrasting groups live and socialise side by side. Despite their close confinement the gaps between these contrasting social spheres are wider than ever, revealed in Philip’s evocations that “young stupid men” should be rounded up and sent out to fight in another world war; in Alex – the voyeur – who the more he observes their movements fails to see these boys as human beings; and even in Clare and the police officer’s assertions to remain ignorant of this dispossessed youth.
Chilling and ominous, Microcosm warns us of the dangers of isolating ourselves within our own social microcosms, of the devastating social boundaries that mark people immediately as foes. And in a London reaping the wounds of youth protests and encroaching gentrification, it’s a striking message.
Microcosm is at the Soho Theatre until 25th May 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Microcosm here: