City of Glass at the Lyric Hammersmith
The grief-stricken mind is a terrible thing, and with nothing but the words of a little red notebook to guide us, do we believe a man might lose all sense of who he is?
Daniel Quinn is a writer of mystery and detective fiction operating under the pseudonym William Wilson. Leading a reclusive life after the death of his wife and son, he is interrupted late one night by a phone call from a seemingly wrong number. On the line, Peter Stillman, believing Quinn to be a private detective called Paul Auster, explains he is in danger from his abusive father soon to be released from a mental hospital. Wrapped up in the mystery of the tale, Quinn decides to take on the case, and in posing as Auster his dizzying descent into madness begins
Duncan Macmillan’s adaptation of Paul Auster’s 1985 detective novel City of Glass is certainly true to the writer’s convolutions, but it is the light and video projections by 59 Productions that steal the show. From the panelled interiors of a plush sitting room with writing scrawled upon the wall to the dilapidated walls of Quinn’s apartment projected with maps of the city as the protagonist’s mind furiously attempts to make connections, we are transported with dreamlike ease from one scene to the next. It is a masterly crafted window into Quinn’s dissolving mind and a true spectacle to behold, particularly as reality becomes more and more distant.
Despite such visual prowess, though, there is little else to truly captivate. It is hard to care much about the underlying characters and, while the role is performed admirably, there is little emotional weight to Quinn’s episodes. Paul Auster may not be known for his emotional gravitas, but while intellectually questioning, the true immersion relies on the production design. By its conclusion, City of Glass leaves us swaying on our feet, but without the deep punch to our chest to leave us yearning for comforting arms.
Photos: Jonathan Keenan
City of Glass is at the Lyric Hammersmith from 21st April until 20th May 2017. Book your tickets here.